THE SURPRISING ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN
By Rudolph Erich Raspe
Published in 1895.
It is a curious fact that of that class of literature to which Munchausen belongs, that namely of Voyages Imaginaires, the three great types should have all been created in England. Utopia, Robinson Crusoe, and Gulliver, illustrating respectively the philosophical, the edifying, and the satirical type of fictitious travel, were all written in England, and at the end of the eighteenth century a fourth type, the fantastically mendacious, was evolved in this country. Of this type Munchausen was the modern original, and remains the classical example. The adaptability of such a species of composition to local and topical uses might well be considered prejudicial to its chances of obtaining a permanent place in literature. Yet Munchausen has undoubtedly achieved such a place. The Baron's notoriety is universal, his character proverbial, and his name as familiar as that of Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, or Robinson Crusoe, mariner, of York. Condemned by the learned, like some other masterpieces, as worthless, Munchausen's travels have obtained such a world-wide fame, that the story of their origin possesses a general and historic interest apart from whatever of obscurity or of curiosity it may have to recommend it.
The work first appeared in London in the course of the year 1785. No copy of the first edition appears to be accessible; it seems, however, to have been issued some time in the autumn, and in the Critical Review for December 1785 there is the following notice: "Baron Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia. Small 8vo, IS. (Smith). This is a satirical production calculated to throw ridicule on the bold assertions of some parliamentary declaimers. If rant may be best foiled at its own weapons, the author's design is not ill-founded; for the marvellous has never been carried to a more whimsical and ludicrous extent." The reviewer had probably read the work through from one paper cover to the other. It was in fact too short to bore the most blase of his kind, consisting of but forty-nine small octavo pages. The second edition, which is in the British Museum, bears the following title; "Baron Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia; humbly dedicated and recommended to country gentlemen, and if they please to be repeated as their own after a hunt, at horse races, in watering places, and other such polite assemblies; round the bottle and fireside. Smith. Printed at Oxford. 1786." The fact that this little pamphlet again consists of but forty-nine small octavo pages, combined with the similarity of title (as far as that of the first edition is given in the Critical Review), publisher, and price, affords a strong presumption that it was identical with the first edition. This edition contains only chapters ii., iii., iv., v., and vi. (pp. 10-44) of the present reprint. These chapters are the best in the book and their substantial if peculiar merit can hardly be denied, but the pamphlet appears to have met with little success, and early in 1786 Smith seems to have sold the property to another bookseller, Kearsley. Kearsley had it enlarged, but not, we are expressly informed, in the preface to the seventh edition, by the hand of the original author (who happened to be in Cornwall at the time). He also had it illustrated and brought it out in the same year in book form at the enhanced price of two shillings, under the title: "Gulliver Reviv'd: The Singular Travels, Campaigns, Voyages and Sporting Adventures of Baron Munnikhouson commonly pronounced Munchausen; as he relates them over a bottle when surrounded by his friends. A new edition considerably enlarged with views from the Baron's drawings. London. 1786." A well-informed Critical Reviewer would have amended the title thus: "Lucian reviv'd: or Gulliver Beat with his own Bow."
Four editions now succeeded each other with rapidity and without modification. A German translation appeared in 1786 with the imprint London: it was, however, in reality printed by Dieterich at Goettingen. It was a free rendering of the fifth edition, the preface being a clumsy combination of that prefixed to the original edition with that which Kearsley had added to the third.
The fifth edition (which is, with the exception of trifling differences on the title-page, identical with the third, fourth, and sixth) is also that which has been followed in the present reprint down to the conclusion of chapter twenty, where it ends with the words "the great quadrangle." The supplement treating of Munchausen's extraordinary flight on the back of an eagle over France to Gibraltar, South and North America, the Polar Regions, and back to England is derived from the seventh edition of 1793, which has a new sub-title:—"Gulliver reviv'd, or the Vice of Lying properly exposed." The preface to this enlarged edition also informs the reader that the last four editions had met with extraordinary success, and that the supplementary chapters, all, that is, with the exception of chapters ii., iii., iv., v., and vi., which are ascribed to Baron Munchausen himself, were the production of another pen, written, however, in the Baron's manner. To the same ingenious person the public was indebted for the engravings with which the book was embellished. The seventh was the last edition by which the classic text of Munchausen was seriously modified. Even before this important consummation had been arrived at, a sequel, which was within a fraction as long as the original work (it occupies pp. 163-299 of this volume), had appeared under the title, "A Sequel to the Adventures of Baron Munchausen. . . . Humbly dedicated to Mr. Bruce the Abyssinian traveller, as the Baron conceives that it may be some service to him, previous to his making another journey into Abyssinia. But if this advice does not delight Mr. Bruce, the Baron is willing to fight him on any terms he pleases." This work was issued separately. London, 1792, 8vo.
Such is the history of the book during the first eight or constructive years of its existence, beyond which it is necessary to trace it, until at least we have touched upon the long-vexed question of its authorship.
Munchausen's travels have in fact been ascribed to as many different hands as those of Odysseus. But (as in most other respects) it differs from the more ancient fabulous narrative in that its authorship has been the subject of but little controversy. Many people have entertained erroneous notions as to its authorship, which they have circulated with complete assurance; but they have not felt it incumbent upon them to support their own views or to combat those of other people. It has, moreover, been frequently stated with equal confidence and inaccuracy that the authorship has never been settled. An early and persistent version of the genesis of the travels was that they took their origin from the rivalry in fabulous tales of three accomplished students at Goettingen University, Buerger, Kaestner, and Lichtenberg; another ran that Gottfried August Buerger, the German poet and author of "Lenore," had at a later stage of his career met Baron Munchausen in Pyrmont and taken down the stories from his own lips. Percy in his anecdotes attributes the Travels to a certain Mr. M. (Munchausen also began with an M.) who was imprisoned at Paris during the Reign of Terror. Southey in his "Omniana" conjectured, from the coincidences between two of the tales and two in a Portuguese periodical published in 1730, that the English fictions must have been derived from the Portuguese. William West the bookseller and numerous followers have stated that Munchausen owed its first origin to Bruce's Travels, and was written for the purpose of burlesquing that unfairly treated work. Pierer boldly stated that it was a successful anonymous satire upon the English government of the day, while Meusel with equal temerity affirmed in his "Lexikon" that the book was a translation of the "well-known Munchausen lies" executed from a (non-existent) German original by Rudolph Erich Raspe. A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1856 calls the book the joint production of Buerger and Raspe.
Of all the conjectures, of which these are but a selection, the most accurate from a German point of view is that the book was the work of Buerger, who was the first to dress the Travels in a German garb, and was for a long time almost universally credited with the sole proprietorship. Buerger himself appears neither to have claimed nor disclaimed the distinction. There is, however, no doubt whatever that the book first appeared in English in 1785, and that Buerger's German version did not see the light until 1786. The first German edition (though in reality printed at Goettingen) bore the imprint London, and was stated to be derived from an English source; but this was, reasonably enough, held to be merely a measure of precaution in case the actual Baron Munchausen (who was a well-known personage in Goettingen) should be stupid enough to feel aggrieved at being made the butt of a gross caricature. In this way the discrepancy of dates mentioned above might easily have been obscured, and Buerger might still have been credited with a work which has proved a better protection against oblivion than "Lenore," had it not been for the officious sensitiveness of his self-appointed biographer, Karl von Reinhard. Reinhard, in an answer to an attack made upon his hero for bringing out Munchausen as a pot-boiler in German and English simultaneously, definitely stated in the Berlin Gesellschafters of November 1824, that the real author of the original work was that disreputable genius, Rudolph Erich Raspe, and that the German work was merely a free translation made by Buerger from the fifth edition of the English work. Buerger, he stated, was well aware of, but was too high-minded to disclose the real authorship.
Taking Reinhard's solemn asseveration in conjunction with the ascertained facts of Raspe's career, his undoubted acquaintance with the Baron Munchausen of real life and the first appearance of the work in 1785, when Raspe was certainly in England, there seems to be little difficulty in accepting his authorship as a positive fact. There is no difficulty whatever, in crediting Raspe with a sufficient mastery of English idiom to have written the book without assistance, for as early as January 1780 (since which date Raspe had resided uninterruptedly in this country) Walpole wrote to his friend Mason that "Raspe writes English much above ill and speaks it as readily as French," and shortly afterwards he remarked that he wrote English "surprisingly well." In the next year, 1781, Raspe's absolute command of the two languages encouraged him to publish two moderately good prose-translations, one of Lessing's "Nathan the Wise," and the other of Zachariae's Mock-heroic, "Tabby in Elysium." The erratic character of the punctuation may be said, with perfect impartiality, to be the only distinguishing feature of the style of the original edition of "Munchausen."
Curious as is this long history of literary misappropriation, the chequered career of the rightful author, Rudolph Erich Raspe, offers a chapter in biography which has quite as many points of singularity.
Born in Hanover in 1737, Raspe studied at the Universities of Goettingen and Leipsic. He is stated also to have rendered some assistance to a young nobleman in sowing his wild oats, a sequel to his university course which may possibly help to explain his subsequent aberrations. The connection cannot have lasted long, as in 1762, having already obtained reputation as a student of natural history and antiquities, he obtained a post as one of the clerks in the University Library at Hanover.
No later than the following year contributions written in elegant Latin are to be found attached to his name in the Leipsic Nova Acta Eruditorum. In 1764 he alluded gracefully to the connection between Hanover and England in a piece upon the birthday of Queen Charlotte, and having been promoted secretary of the University Library at Goettingen, the young savant commenced a translation of Leibniz's philosophical works which was issued in Latin and French after the original MSS. in the Royal Library at Hanover, with a preface by Raspe's old college friend Kaestner (Goettingen, 1765). At once a courtier, an antiquary, and a philosopher, Raspe next sought to display his vocation for polite letters, by publishing an ambitious allegorical poem of the age of chivalry, entitled "Hermin and Gunilde," which was not only exceedingly well reviewed, but received the honour of a parody entitled "Harlequin and Columbine." He also wrote translations of several of the poems of Ossian, and a disquisition upon their genuineness; and then with better inspiration he wrote a considerable treatise on "Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry," with metrical translations, being thus the first to call the attention of Germany to these admirable poems, which were afterwards so successfully ransacked by Buerger, Herder, and other early German romanticists.
In 1767 Raspe was again advanced by being appointed Professor at the Collegium Carolinum in Cassel, and keeper of the landgrave of Hesse's rich and curious collection of antique gems and medals. He was shortly afterwards appointed Librarian in the same city, and in 1771 he married. He continued writing on natural history, mineralogy, and archaeology, and in 1769 a paper in the 59th volume of the Philosophical Transactions, on the bones and teeth of elephants and other animals found in North America and various boreal regions of the world, procured his election as an honorary member of the Royal Society of London. His conclusion in this paper that large elephants or mammoths must have previously existed in boreal regions has, of course, been abundantly justified by later investigations. When it is added that Raspe during this part of his life also wrote papers on lithography and upon musical instruments, and translated Algarotti's Treatise on "Architecture, Painting, and Opera Music," enough will have been said to make manifest his very remarkable and somewhat prolix versatility. In 1773 he made a tour in Westphalia in quest of MSS., and on his return, by way of completing his education, he turned journalist, and commenced a periodical called the Cassel Spectator, with Mauvillon as his co-editor. In 1775 he was travelling in Italy on a commission to collect articles of vertu for the landgrave, and it was apparently soon after his return that he began appropriating to his own use valuable coins abstracted from the cabinets entrusted to his care. He had no difficulty in finding a market for the antiques which he wished to dispose of, and which, it has been charitably suggested, he had every intention of replacing whenever opportunity should serve. His consequent procedure was, it is true, scarcely that of a hardened criminal. Having obtained the permission of the landgrave to visit Berlin, he sent the keys of his cabinet back to the authorities at Cassel—and disappeared. His thefts, to the amount of two thousand rixdollars, were promptly discovered, and advertisements were issued for the arrest of the Councillor Raspe, described without suspicion of flattery as a long-faced man, with small eyes, crooked nose, red hair under a stumpy periwig, and a jerky gait. The necessities that prompted him to commit a felony are possibly indicated by the addition that he usually appeared in a scarlet dress embroidered with gold, but sometimes in black, blue, or grey clothes. He was seized when he had got no farther than Klausthal, in the Hartz mountains, but he lost no time in escaping from the clutches of the police, and made his way to England. He never again set foot on the continent.
He was already an excellent English scholar, so that when he reached London it was not unnatural that he should look to authorship for support. Without loss of time, he published in London in 1776 a volume on some German Volcanoes and their productions; in 1777 he translated the then highly esteemed mineralogical travels of Ferber in Italy and Hungary. In 1780 we have an interesting account of him from Horace Walpole, who wrote to his friend, the Rev. William Mason: "There is a Dutch scavant come over who is author of several pieces so learned that I do not even know their titles: but he has made a discovery in my way which you may be sure I believe, for it proves what I expected and hinted in my 'Anecdotes of Painting,' that the use of oil colours was known long before Van Eyck." Raspe, he went on to say, had discovered a MS. of Theophilus, a German monk in the fourth century, who gave receipts for preparing the colours, and had thereby convicted Vasari of error. "Raspe is poor, and I shall try and get subscriptions to enable him to print his work, which is sensible, clear, and unpretending." Three months later it was, "Poor Raspe is arrested by his tailor. I have sent him a little money, and he hopes to recover his liberty, but I question whether he will be able to struggle on here." His "Essay on the Origin of Oil Painting" was actually published through Walpole's good service in April 1781. He seems to have had plans of going to America and of excavating antiquities in Egypt, where he might have done good service, but the bad name that he had earned dogged him to London. The Royal Society struck him off its rolls, and in revenge he is said to have threatened to publish a travesty of their transactions. He was doubtless often hard put to it for a living, but the variety of his attainments served him in good stead. He possessed or gained some reputation as a mining expert, and making his way down into Cornwall, he seems for some years subsequent to 1782 to have been assay-master and storekeeper of some mines at Dolcoath. While still at Dolcoath, it is very probable that he put together the little pamphlet which appeared in London at the close of 1785, with the title "Baron Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia," and having given his jeu d'esprit to the world, and possibly earned a few guineas by it, it is not likely that he gave much further thought to the matter. In the course of 1785 or 1786, he entered upon a task of much greater magnitude and immediate importance, namely, a descriptive catalogue of the Collection of Pastes and Impressions from Ancient and Modern Gems, formed by James Tassie, the eminent connoisseur. Tassie engaged Raspe in 1785 to take charge of his cabinets, and to commence describing their contents: he can hardly have been ignorant of his employe's delinquencies in the past, but he probably estimated that mere casts of gems would not offer sufficient temptation to a man of Raspe's eclectic tastes to make the experiment a dangerous one. Early in 1786, Raspe produced a brief but well-executed conspectus of the arrangement and classification of the collection, and this was followed in 1791 by "A Descriptive Catalogue," in which over fifteen thousand casts of ancient and modern engraved gems, cameos, and intaglios from the most renowned cabinets in Europe were enumerated and described in French and English. The two quarto volumes are a monument of patient and highly skilled industry, and they still fetch high prices. The elaborate introduction prefixed to the work was dated from Edinburgh, April 16, 1790.
This laborious task completed, Raspe lost no time in applying himself with renewed energy to mineralogical work. It was announced in the Scots Magazine for October 1791 that he had discovered in the extreme north of Scotland, where he had been invited to search for minerals, copper, lead, iron, manganese, and other valuable products of a similar character. From Sutherland he brought specimens of the finest clay, and reported a fine vein of heavy spar and "every symptom of coal." But in Caithness lay the loadstone which had brought Raspe to Scotland. This was no other than Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, a benevolent gentleman of an ingenious and inquiring disposition, who was anxious to exploit the supposed mineral wealth of his barren Scottish possessions. With him Raspe took up his abode for a considerable time at his spray-beaten castle on the Pentland Firth, and there is a tradition, among members of the family, of Sir John's unfailing appreciation of the wide intelligence and facetious humour of Raspe's conversation. Sinclair had some years previously discovered a small vein of yellow mundick on the moor of Skinnet, four miles from Thurso. The Cornish miners he consulted told him that the mundick was itself of no value, but a good sign of the proximity of other valuable minerals. Mundick, said they, was a good horseman, and always rode on a good load. He now employed Raspe to examine the ground, not designing to mine it himself, but to let it out to other capitalists in return for a royalty, should the investigation justify his hopes. The necessary funds were put at Raspe's disposal, and masses of bright, heavy material were brought to Thurso Castle as a foretaste of what was coming. But when the time came for the fruition of this golden promise, Raspe disappeared, and subsequent inquiries revealed the deplorable fact that these opulent ores had been carefully imported by the mining expert from Cornwall, and planted in the places where they were found. Sir Walter Scott must have had the incident (though not Raspe) in his mind when he created the Dousterswivel of his "Antiquary." As for Raspe, he betook himself to a remote part of the United Kingdom, and had commenced some mining operations in country Donegal, when he was carried off by scarlet fever at Muckross in 1794. Such in brief outline was the career of Rudolph Erich Raspe, scholar, swindler, and undoubted creator of Baron Munchausen.
The merit of Munchausen, as the adult reader will readily perceive, does not reside in its literary style, for Raspe is no exception to the rule that a man never has a style worthy of the name in a language that he did not prattle in. But it is equally obvious that the real and original Munchausen, as Raspe conceived and doubtless intended at one time to develop him, was a delightful personage whom it would be the height of absurdity to designate a mere liar. Unfortunately the task was taken out of his hand and a good character spoiled, like many another, by mere sequel-mongers. Raspe was an impudent scoundrel, and fortunately so; his impudence relieves us of any difficulty in resolving the question,—to whom (if any one) did he owe the original conception of the character whose fame is now so universal.
When Raspe was resident in Goettingen he obtained, in all probability through Gerlach Adolph von Munchausen, the great patron of arts and letters and of Goettingen University, an introduction to Hieronynimus Karl Friedrich von Munchausen, at whose hospitable mansion at Bodenwerder he became an occasional visitor. Hieronynimus, who was born at Bodenwerder on May 11, 1720, was a cadet of what was known as the black line of the house of Rinteln Bodenwerder, and in his youth served as a page in the service of Prince Anton Ulrich of Brunswick. When quite a stripling he obtained a cornetcy in the "Brunswick Regiment" in the Russian service, and on November 27, 1740, he was created a lieutenant by letters patent of the Empress Anna, and served two arduous campaigns against the Turks during the following years. In 1750 he was promoted to be a captain of cuirassiers by the Empress Elizabeth, and about 1760 he retired from the Russian service to live upon his patrimonial estate at Bodenwerder in the congenial society of his wife and his paragon among huntsmen, Roesemeyer, for whose particular benefit he maintained a fine pack of hounds. He kept open house, and loved to divert his guests with stories, not in the braggart vein of Dugald Dalgetty, but so embellished with palpably extravagant lies as to crack with a humour that was all their own. The manner has been appropriated by Artemus Ward and Mark Twain, but it was invented by Munchausen. Now the stories mainly relate to sporting adventures, and it has been asserted by one contemporary of the baron that Munchausen contracted the habit of drawing such a long-bow as a measure of self-defence against his invaluable but loquacious henchman, the worthy Roesemeyer. But it is more probable, as is hinted in the first preface, that Munchausen, being a shrewd man, found the practice a sovereign specific against bores and all other kinds of serious or irrelevant people, while it naturally endeared him to the friends of whom he had no small number.
He told his stories with imperturbable sang froid, in a dry manner, and with perfect naturalness and simplicity. He spoke as a man of the world, without circumlocution; his adventures were numerous and perhaps singular, but only such as might have been expected to happen to a man of so much experience. A smile never traversed his face as he related the least credible of his tales, which the less intimate of his acquaintance began in time to think he meant to be taken seriously. In short, so strangely entertaining were both manner and matter of his narratives, that "Munchausen's Stories" became a by-word among a host of appreciative acquaintance. Among these was Raspe, who years afterwards, when he was starving in London, bethought himself of the incomparable baron. He half remembered some of his sporting stories, and supplemented these by gleanings from his own commonplace book. The result is a curious medley, which testifies clearly to learning and wit, and also to the turning over of musty old books of facetiae written in execrable Latin.
The story of the Baron's horse being cut in two by the descending portcullis of a besieged town, and the horseman's innocence of the fact until, upon reaching a fountain in the midst of the city, the insatiate thirst of the animal betrayed his deficiency in hind quarters, was probably derived by Raspe from the Facetiae Bebelianae of Heinrich Bebel, first published at Strassburgh in 1508.
There it is given as follows: "De Insigni Mendacio. Faber clavicularius quem superius fabrum mendaciorum dixi, narravit se tempore belli, credens suos se subsecuturos equitando ad cujusdam oppidi portas penetrasse: et cum ad portas venisset cataractam turre demissam, equum suum post ephippium discidisse, dimidiatumque reliquisse, atque se media parte equi ad forum usque oppidi equitasse, et caedem non modicam peregisse. Sed cum retrocedere vellet multitudine hostium obrutus, tum demum equum cecidisse seque captum fuisse."
The drinking at the fountain was probably an embellishment of Raspe's own. Many of Bebel's jests were repeated in J. P. Lange's Delicioe Academicoe (Heilbronn, 1665), a section of which was expressly devoted to "Mendacia Ridicula"; but the yarn itself is probably much older than either. Similarly, the quaint legend of the thawing of the horn was told by Castiglione in his Cortegiano, first published in 1528. This is how Castiglione tells it: A merchant of Lucca had travelled to Poland in order to buy furs; but as there was at that time a war with Muscovy, from which country the furs were procured, the Lucchese merchant was directed to the confines of the two countries. On reaching the Borysthenes, which divided Poland and Muscovy, he found that the Muscovite traders remained on their own side of the river from distrust, on account of the state of hostilities. The Muscovites, desirous of being heard across the river announced the prices of their furs in a loud voice; but the cold was so intense that their words were frozen in the air before they could reach the opposite side. Hereupon the Poles lighted a fire in the middle of the river, which was frozen into a solid mass; and in the course of an hour the words which had been frozen up were melted, and fell gently upon the further bank, although the Muscovite traders had already gone away. The prices demanded were, however, so high that the Lucchese merchant returned without making any purchase. A similar idea is utilised by Rabelais in Pantagruel, and by Steele in one of his Tatlers. The story of the cherry tree growing out of the stag's head, again, is given in Lange's book, and the fact that all three tales are of great antiquity is proved by the appearance of counterparts to them in Lady Guest's edition of the Mabinogion. A great number of nugoe canoroe of a perfectly similar type are narrated in the sixteenth century "Travels of the Finkenritter" attributed to Lorenz von Lauterbach.
To humorous waifs of this description, without fixed origin or birthplace, did Raspe give a classical setting amongst embroidered versions of the baron's sporting jokes. The unscrupulous manner in which he affixed Munchausen's own name to the completed jeu d'esprit is, ethically speaking, the least pardonable of his crimes; for when Raspe's little book was first transformed and enlarged, and then translated into German, the genial old baron found himself the victim of an unmerciful caricature, and without a rag of concealment. It is consequently not surprising to hear that he became soured and reticent before his death at Bodenwerder in 1797.
Strangers had already begun to come down to the place in the hope of getting a glimpse of the eccentric nobleman, and foolish stories were told of his thundering out his lies with apoplectic visage, his eyes starting out of his head, and perspiration beading his forehead. The fountain of his reminiscences was in reality quite dried up, and it must be admitted that this excellent old man had only too good reason to consider himself an injured person.
In this way, then, came to be written the first delightful chapters of Baron Munchausen's "Narrative of his Travels and Campaigns in Russia." It was not primarily intended as a satire, nor was it specially designed to take of the extravagant flights of contemporary travellers. It was rather a literary frivolity, thrown off at one effort by a tatterdemalion genius in sore need of a few guineas.
The remainder of the book is a melancholy example of the fallacy of enlargements and of sequels. Neither Raspe nor the baron can be seriously held responsible for a single word of it. It must have been written by a bookseller's hack, whom it is now quite impossible to identify, but who was evidently of native origin; and the book is a characteristically English product, full of personal and political satire, with just a twang of edification. The first continuation (chapters one and seven, to twenty, inclusive), which was supplied with the third edition, is merely a modern rechauffe, with "up to date" allusions, of Lucian's Vera Historia. Prototypes of the majority of the stories may either be found in Lucian or in the twenty volumes of Voyages Imaginaires, published at Paris in 1787. In case, however, any reader should be sceptical as to the accuracy of this statement he will have no very great difficulty in supposing, as Dr. Johnson supposed of Ossian, that anybody could write a great amount of such stuff if he would only consent to abandon his mind to the task.
With the supplementary chapters commence topical allusions to the recently issued memoirs of Baron de Tott, an enterprising Frenchman who had served the Great Turk against the Russians in the Crimea (an English translation of his book had appeared in 1785). The satire upon this gallant soldier's veracity appears to be quite undeserved, though one can hardly read portions of his adventures without being forcibly reminded of the Baron's laconic style. It is needless to add that the amazing account of De Tott's origin is grossly libellous. The amount of public interest excited by the aeronautical exploits of Montgolfier and Blanchard was also playfully satirised. Their first imitator in England, Vincenzo Lunardi, had made a successful ascent from Moorfields as recently as 1784, while in the following year Blanchard crossed the channel in a balloon and earned the sobriquet Don Quixote de la Manche. His grotesque appropriation of the motto "Sic itur ad astra" made him, at least, a fit object for Munchausen's gibes. In the Baron's visit to Gibraltar we have evidence that the anonymous writer, in common with the rest of the reading public, had been studying John Drinkwater's "History of the Siege of Gibraltar" (completed in 1783), which had with extreme rapidity established its reputation as a military classic. Similarly, in the Polar adventures, the "Voyage towards the North Pole," 1774, of Constantine John Phipps, afterwards Lord Mulgrave, is gently ridiculed, and so also some incidents from Patrick Brydone's "Tour through Sicily and Malta" (1773), are, for no obvious reason, contemptuously dragged in. The exploitation of absurd and libellous chap-book lives of Pope Clement XIV., the famous Ganganelli, can only be described as a low bid for vulgar applause. A French translation of Baron Friedrich von Trenck's celebrated Memoirs appeared at Metz in 1787, and it would certainly seem that in overlooking them the compiler of Munchausen was guilty of a grave omission. He may, however, have regarded Trenck's adventures less as material for ridicule than as a series of hableries which threatened to rival his own.
The Seventh Edition, published in 1793, with the supplement (pp. 142- 161), was, with the abominable proclivity to edification which marked the publisher of the period (that of "Goody Two-Shoes" and "Sandford and Merton"), styled "Gulliver Reviv'd: or the Vice of Lying Properly Exposed." The previous year had witnessed the first appearance of the sequel, of which the full title has already been given, "with twenty capital copperplates, including the baron's portrait." The merit of Munchausen as a mouthpiece for ridiculing traveller's tall-talk, or indeed anything that shocked the incredulity of the age, was by this time widely recognised. And hence with some little ingenuity the popular character was pressed into the service of the vulgar clamour against James Bruce, whose "Travels to Discover the Sources of the Nile" had appeared in 1790. In particular Bruce's description of the Abyssinian custom of feeding upon "live bulls and kava" provoked a chorus of incredulity. The traveller was ridiculed upon the stage as Macfable, and in a cloud of ephemeral productions; nor is the following allusion in Peter Pindar obscure:—
"Nor have I been where men (what loss alas!) Kill half a cow, then send the rest to grass."
The way in which Bruce resented the popular scepticism is illustrated by the following anecdote told by Sir Francis Head, his biographer. A gentleman once observed, at a country house where Bruce was staying, that it was not possible that the natives of Abyssinia could eat raw meat! "Bruce said not a word, but leaving the room, shortly returned from the kitchen with a piece of raw beef-steak, peppered and salted in the Abyssinian fashion. 'You will eat that, sir, or fight me,' he said. When the gentleman had eaten up the raw flesh (most willingly would he have eaten his words instead), Bruce calmly observed, 'Now, sir, you will never again say it is impossible.'" In reality, Bruce seems to have been treated with much the same injustice as Herodotus. The truth of the bulk of his narrative has been fully established, although a passion for the picturesque may certainly have led him to embellish many of the minor particulars. And it must be remembered, that his book was not dictated until twelve years after the events narrated.
Apart from Bruce, however, the sequel, like the previous continuation, contains a great variety of political, literary, and other allusions of the most purely topical character—Dr. Johnson's Tour in the Hebrides, Mr. Pitt, Burke's famous pamphlet upon the French Revolution, Captain Cook, Tippoo Sahib (who had been brought to bay by Lord Cornwallis between 1790 and 1792). The revolutionary pandemonium in Paris, and the royal flight to Varennes in June 1791, and the loss of the "Royal George" in 1782, all form the subjects of quizzical comments, and there are many other allusions the interest of which is quite as ephemeral as those of a Drury Lane pantomime or a Gaiety Burlesque.
Nevertheless the accretions have proved powerless to spoil "Munchausen." The nucleus supplied by Raspe was instinct with so much energy that it has succeeded in vitalising the whole mass of extraneous extravagance.
Although, like "Gulliver's Travels," "Munchausen" might at first sight appear to be ill-suited, in more than one respect, for the nursery, yet it has proved the delight of children of all ages; and there are probably few, in the background of whose childish imagination the astonishing Munchausen has not at one time or another, together with Robinson Crusoe, Jack-the-Giant-Killer, and the Pied Piper of Hamelyn, assumed proportions at once gigantic and seductively picturesque.
The work, as has been shown, assumed its final form before the close of the eighteenth century; with the nineteenth it commenced its triumphant progress over the civilised world. Some of the subsequent transformations and migrations of the book are worthy of brief record.
A voluminous German continuation was published at Stendhal in three volumes between 1794 and 1800. There was also a continuation comprising exploits at Walcheren, the Dardanelles, Talavera, Cintra, and elsewhere, published in London in 1811. An elaborate French translation, with embellishments in the French manner, appeared at Paris in 1862. Immerman's celebrated novel entitled "Munchausen" was published in four volumes at Dusseldorf in 1841, and a very free rendering of the Baron's exploits, styled "Munchausen's Lugenabenteuer," at Leipsic in 1846. The work has also been translated into Dutch, Danish, Magyar (Bard de Manx), Russian, Portuguese, Spanish (El Conde de las Maravillas), and many other tongues, and an estimate that over one hundred editions have appeared in England, Germany, and America alone, is probably rather under than above the mark.
The book has, moreover, at the same time provided illustrations to writers and orators, and the richest and most ample material for illustrations to artists. The original rough woodcuts are anonymous, but the possibilities of the work were discovered as early as 1809, by Thomas Rowlandson, who illustrated the edition published in that year. The edition of 1859 owed embellishments to Crowquill, while Cruikshank supplied some characteristic woodcuts to that of 1869. Coloured designs for the travels were executed by a French artist Richard in 1878, and illustrations were undertaken independently for the German editions by Riepenhausen and Hosemann respectively. The German artist Adolph Schroedter has also painted a celebrated picture representing the Baron surrounded by his listeners. But of all the illustrations yet invented, the general verdict has hitherto declared in favour of those supplied to Theophile Gautier's French edition of 1862 by Gustave Dore, who fully maintained by them the reputation he had gained for work of a similar genre in his drawings for Balzac's Contes Drolatiques. When, however, the public has had an opportunity of appreciating the admirably fantastic drawings made by Mr. William Strang and Mr. J. B. Clark for the present edition, they will probably admit that Baron Munchausen's indebtedness to his illustrations, already very great, has been more than doubled.
THE FIRST EDITION
Baron Munnikhouson or Munchausen, of Bodenweder, near Hamelyn on the Weser, belongs to the noble family of that name, which gave to the King's German dominions the late prime minister and several other public characters equally bright and illustrious. He is a man of great original humour; and having found that prejudiced minds cannot be reasoned into common sense, and that bold assertors are very apt to bully and speak their audience out of it, he never argues with either of them, but adroitly turns the conversation upon indifferent topics and then tells a story of his travels, campaigns, and sporting adventures, in a manner peculiar to himself, and well calculated to awaken and shame the common sense of those who have lost sight of it by prejudice or habit.
As this method has been often attended with good success, we beg leave to lay some of his stories before the public, and humbly request those who shall find them rather extravagant and bordering upon the marvellous, which will require but a very moderate share of common sense, to exercise the same upon every occurrence of life, and chiefly upon our English politics, in which old habits and bold assertions, set off by eloquent speeches and supported by constitutional mobs, associations, volunteers, and foreign influence, have of late, we apprehend, but too successfully turned our brains, and made us the laughing-stock of Europe, and of France and Holland in particular.
TO THE PUBLIC
Having heard, for the first time, that my adventures have been doubted, and looked upon as jokes, I feel bound to come forward and vindicate my character for veracity, by paying three shillings at the Mansion House of this great city for the affidavits hereto appended.
This I have been forced into in regard of my own honour, although I have retired for many years from public and private life; and I hope that this, my last edition, will place me in a proper light with my readers.
AT THE CITY OF LONDON, ENGLAND.
We, the undersigned, as true believers in the profit, do most solemnly affirm, that all the adventures of our friend Baron Munchausen, in whatever country they may lie, are positive and simple facts. And, as we have been believed, whose adventures are tenfold more wonderful, so do we hope all true believers will give him their full faith and credence. GULLIVER. x SINBAD. x ALADDIN. x Sworn at the Mansion House 9th Nov. last, in the absence of the Lord Mayor. JOHN (the Porter).
TRAVELS OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN
[THE BARON IS SUPPOSED TO RELATE THESE ADVENTURES TO HIS FRIENDS OVER A BOTTLE.]
The Baron relates an account of his first travels—The astonishing effects of a storm—Arrives at Ceylon; combats and conquers two extraordinary opponents—Returns to Holland.
Some years before my beard announced approaching manhood, or, in other words, when I was neither man nor boy, but between both, I expressed in repeated conversations a strong desire of seeing the world, from which I was discouraged by my parents, though my father had been no inconsiderable traveller himself, as will appear before I have reached the end of my singular, and, I may add, interesting adventures. A cousin, by my mother's side, took a liking to me, often said I was fine forward youth, and was much inclined to gratify my curiosity. His eloquence had more effect than mine, for my father consented to my accompanying him in a voyage to the island of Ceylon, where his uncle had resided as governor many years.
We sailed from Amsterdam with despatches from their High Mightinesses the States of Holland. The only circumstance which happened on our voyage worth relating was the wonderful effects of a storm, which had torn up by the roots a great number of trees of enormous bulk and height, in an island where we lay at anchor to take in wood and water; some of these trees weighed many tons, yet they were carried by the wind so amazingly high, that they appeared like the feathers of small birds floating in the air, for they were at least five miles above the earth: however, as soon as the storm subsided they all fell perpendicularly into their respective places, and took root again, except the largest, which happened, when it was blown into the air, to have a man and his wife, a very honest old couple, upon its branches, gathering cucumbers (in this part of the globe that useful vegetable grows upon trees): the weight of this couple, as the tree descended, over-balanced the trunk, and brought it down in a horizontal position: it fell upon the chief man of the island, and killed him on the spot; he had quitted his house in the storm, under an apprehension of its falling upon him, and was returning through his own garden when this fortunate accident happened. The word fortunate, here, requires some explanation. This chief was a man of a very avaricious and oppressive disposition, and though he had no family, the natives of the island were half-starved by his oppressive and infamous impositions.
The very goods which he had thus taken from them were spoiling in his stores, while the poor wretches from whom they were plundered were pining in poverty. Though the destruction of this tyrant was accidental, the people chose the cucumber-gatherers for their governors, as a mark of their gratitude for destroying, though accidentally, their late tyrant.
After we had repaired the damages we sustained in this remarkable storm, and taken leave of the new governor and his lady, we sailed with a fair wind for the object of our voyage.
In about six weeks we arrived at Ceylon, where we were received with great marks of friendship and true politeness. The following singular adventures may not prove unentertaining.
After we had resided at Ceylon about a fortnight I accompanied one of the governor's brothers upon a shooting party. He was a strong, athletic man, and being used to that climate (for he had resided there some years), he bore the violent heat of the sun much better than I could; in our excursion he had made a considerable progress through a thick wood when I was only at the entrance.
Near the banks of a large piece of water, which had engaged my attention, I thought I heard a rustling noise behind; on turning about I was almost petrified (as who would not be?) at the sight of a lion, which was evidently approaching with the intention of satisfying his appetite with my poor carcase, and that without asking my consent. What was to be done in this horrible dilemma? I had not even a moment for reflection; my piece was only charged with swan-shot, and I had no other about me: however, though I could have no idea of killing such an animal with that weak kind of ammunition, yet I had some hopes of frightening him by the report, and perhaps of wounding him also. I immediately let fly, without waiting till he was within reach, and the report did but enrage him, for he now quickened his pace, and seemed to approach me full speed: I attempted to escape, but that only added (if an addition could be made) to my distress; for the moment I turned about I found a large crocodile, with his mouth extended almost ready to receive me. On my right hand was the piece of water before mentioned, and on my left a deep precipice, said to have, as I have since learned, a receptacle at the bottom for venomous creatures; in short I gave myself up as lost, for the lion was now upon his hind-legs, just in the act of seizing me; I fell involuntarily to the ground with fear, and, as it afterwards appeared, he sprang over me. I lay some time in a situation which no language can describe, expecting to feel his teeth or talons in some part of me every moment: after waiting in this prostrate situation a few seconds I heard a violent but unusual noise, different from any sound that had ever before assailed my ears; nor is it at all to be wondered at, when I inform you from whence it proceeded: after listening for some time, I ventured to raise my head and look round, when, to my unspeakable joy, I perceived the lion had, by the eagerness with which he sprung at me, jumped forward, as I fell, into the crocodile's mouth! which, as before observed, was wide open; the head of the one stuck in the throat of the other! and they were struggling to extricate themselves! I fortunately recollected my couteau de chasse, which was by my side; with this instrument I severed the lion's head at one blow, and the body fell at my feet! I then, with the butt-end of my fowling-piece, rammed the head farther into the throat of the crocodile, and destroyed him by suffocation, for he could neither gorge nor eject it.
Soon after I had thus gained a complete victory over my two powerful adversaries, my companion arrived in search of me; for finding I did not follow him into the wood, he returned, apprehending I had lost my way, or met with some accident.
After mutual congratulations, we measured the crocodile, which was just forty feet in length.
As soon as we had related this extraordinary adventure to the governor, he sent a waggon and servants, who brought home the two carcases. The lion's skin was properly preserved, with its hair on, after which it was made into tobacco-pouches, and presented by me, upon our return to Holland, to the burgomasters, who, in return, requested my acceptance of a thousand ducats.
The skin of the crocodile was stuffed in the usual manner, and makes a capital article in their public museum at Amsterdam, where the exhibitor relates the whole story to each spectator, with such additions as he thinks proper. Some of his variations are rather extravagant; one of them is, that the lion jumped quite through the crocodile, and was making his escape at the back door, when, as soon as his head appeared, Monsieur the Great Baron (as he is pleased to call me) cut it off, and three feet of the crocodile's tail along with it; nay, so little attention has this fellow to the truth, that he sometimes adds, as soon as the crocodile missed his tail, he turned about, snatched the couteau de chasse out of Monsieur's hand, and swallowed it with such eagerness that it pierced his heart and killed him immediately!
The little regard which this impudent knave has to veracity makes me sometimes apprehensive that my real facts may fall under suspicion, by being found in company with his confounded inventions.
In which the Baron proves himself a good shot—He loses his horse, and finds a wolf—Makes him draw his sledge—Promises to entertain his company with a relation of such facts as are well deserving their notice.
I set off from Rome on a journey to Russia, in the midst of winter, from a just notion that frost and snow must of course mend the roads, which every traveller had described as uncommonly bad through the northern parts of Germany, Poland, Courland, and Livonia. I went on horseback, as the most convenient manner of travelling; I was but lightly clothed, and of this I felt the inconvenience the more I advanced north-east. What must not a poor old man have suffered in that severe weather and climate, whom I saw on a bleak common in Poland, lying on the road, helpless, shivering, and hardly having wherewithal to cover his nakedness? I pitied the poor soul: though I felt the severity of the air myself, I threw my mantle over him, and immediately I heard a voice from the heavens, blessing me for that piece of charity, saying—
"You will be rewarded, my son, for this in time."
I went on: night and darkness overtook me. No village was to be seen. The country was covered with snow, and I was unacquainted with the road.
Tired, I alighted, and fastened my horse to something like a pointed stump of a tree, which appeared above the snow; for the sake of safety I placed my pistols under my arm, and laid down on the snow, where I slept so soundly that I did not open my eyes till full daylight. It is not easy to conceive my astonishment to find myself in the midst of a village, lying in a churchyard; nor was my horse to be seen, but I heard him soon after neigh somewhere above me. On looking upwards I beheld him hanging by his bridle to the weather-cock of the steeple. Matters were now very plain to me: the village had been covered with snow overnight; a sudden change of weather had taken place; I had sunk down to the churchyard whilst asleep, gently, and in the same proportion as the snow had melted away; and what in the dark I had taken to be a stump of a little tree appearing above the snow, to which I had tied my horse, proved to have been the cross or weather-cock of the steeple!
Without long consideration I took one of my pistols, shot the bridle in two, brought the horse, and proceeded on my journey. [Here the Baron seems to have forgot his feelings; he should certainly have ordered his horse a feed of corn, after fasting so long.]
He carried me well—advancing into the interior parts of Russia. I found travelling on horseback rather unfashionable in winter, therefore I submitted, as I always do, to the custom of the country, took a single horse sledge, and drove briskly towards St. Petersburg. I do not exactly recollect whether it was in Eastland or Jugemanland, but I remember that in the midst of a dreary forest I spied a terrible wolf making after me, with all the speed of ravenous winter hunger. He soon overtook me. There was no possibility of escape. Mechanically I laid myself down flat in the sledge, and let my horse run for our safety. What I wished, but hardly hoped or expected, happened immediately after. The wolf did not mind me in the least, but took a leap over me, and falling furiously on the horse, began instantly to tear and devour the hind-part of the poor animal, which ran the faster for his pain and terror. Thus unnoticed and safe myself, I lifted my head slyly up, and with horror I beheld that the wolf had ate his way into the horse's body; it was not long before he had fairly forced himself into it, when I took my advantage, and fell upon him with the butt-end of my whip. This unexpected attack in his rear frightened him so much, that he leaped forward with all his might: the horse's carcase dropped on the ground, but in his place the wolf was in the harness, and I on my part whipping him continually: we both arrived in full career safe at St. Petersburg, contrary to our respective expectations, and very much to the astonishment of the spectators.
I shall not tire you, gentlemen, with the politics, arts, sciences, and history of this magnificent metropolis of Russia, nor trouble you with the various intrigues and pleasant adventures I had in the politer circles of that country, where the lady of the house always receives the visitor with a dram and a salute. I shall confine myself rather to the greater and nobler objects of your attention, horses and dogs, my favourites in the brute creation; also to foxes, wolves, and bears, with which, and game in general, Russia abounds more than any other part of the world; and to such sports, manly exercises, and feats of gallantry and activity, as show the gentleman better than musty Greek or Latin, or all the perfume, finery, and capers of French wits or petit-maitres.
An encounter between the Baron's nose and a door-post, with its wonderful effects—Fifty brace of ducks and other fowl destroyed by one shot—Flogs a fox out of his skin—Leads an old sow home in a new way, and vanquishes a wild boar.
It was some time before I could obtain a commission in the army, and for several months I was perfectly at liberty to sport away my time and money in the most gentleman-like manner. You may easily imagine that I spent much of both out of town with such gallant fellows as knew how to make the most of an open forest country. The very recollection of those amusements gives me fresh spirits, and creates a warm wish for a repetition of them. One morning I saw, through the windows of my bed-room, that a large pond not far off was covered with wild ducks. In an instant I took my gun from the corner, ran down-stairs and out of the house in such a hurry, that I imprudently struck my face against the door-post. Fire flew out of my eyes, but it did not prevent my intention; I soon came within shot, when, levelling my piece, I observed to my sorrow, that even the flint had sprung from the cock by the violence of the shock I had just received. There was no time to be lost. I presently remembered the effect it had on my eyes, therefore opened the pan, levelled my piece against the wild fowls, and my fist against one of my eyes. [The Baron's eyes have retained fire ever since, and appear particularly illuminated when he relates this anecdote.] A hearty blow drew sparks again; the shot went off, and I killed fifty brace of ducks, twenty widgeons, and three couple of teals. Presence of mind is the soul of manly exercises. If soldiers and sailors owe to it many of their lucky escapes, hunters and sportsmen are not less beholden to it for many of their successes. In a noble forest in Russia I met a fine black fox, whose valuable skin it would have been a pity to tear by ball or shot. Reynard stood close to a tree. In a twinkling I took out my ball, and placed a good spike-nail in its room, fired, and hit him so cleverly that I nailed his brush fast to the tree. I now went up to him, took out my hanger, gave him a cross-cut over the face, laid hold of my whip, and fairly flogged him out of his fine skin.
Chance and good luck often correct our mistakes; of this I had a singular instance soon after, when, in the depth of a forest, I saw a wild pig and sow running close behind each other. My ball had missed them, yet the foremost pig only ran away, and the sow stood motionless, as fixed to the ground. On examining into the matter, I found the latter one to be an old sow, blind with age, which had taken hold of her pig's tail, in order to be led along by filial duty. My ball, having passed between the two, had cut his leading-string, which the old sow continued to hold in her mouth; and as her former guide did not draw her on any longer, she had stopped of course; I therefore laid hold of the remaining end of the pig's tail, and led the old beast home without any further trouble on my part, and without any reluctance or apprehension on the part of the helpless old animal.
Terrible as these wild sows are, yet more fierce and dangerous are the boars, one of which I had once the misfortune to meet in a forest, unprepared for attack or defence. I retired behind an oak-tree just when the furious animal levelled a side-blow at me, with such force, that his tusks pierced through the tree, by which means he could neither repeat the blow nor retire. Ho, ho! thought I, I shall soon have you now! and immediately I laid hold of a stone, wherewith I hammered and bent his tusks in such a manner, that he could not retreat by any means, and must wait my return from the next village, whither I went for ropes and a cart, to secure him properly, and to carry him off safe and alive, in which I perfectly succeeded.
Reflections on Saint Hubert's stag—Shoots a stag with cherry-stones; the wonderful effects of it—Kills a bear by extraordinary dexterity; his danger pathetically described—Attacked by a wolf, which he turns inside out—Is assailed by a mad dog, from which he escapes—The Baron's cloak seized with madness, by which his whole wardrobe is thrown into confusion.
You have heard, I dare say, of the hunter and sportsman's saint and protector, St. Hubert, and of the noble stag, which appeared to him in the forest, with the holy cross between his antlers. I have paid my homage to that saint every year in good fellowship, and seen this stag a thousand times, either painted in churches, or embroidered in the stars of his knights; so that, upon the honour and conscience of a good sportsman, I hardly know whether there may not have been formerly, or whether there are not such crossed stags even at this present day. But let me rather tell what I have seen myself. Having one day spent all my shot, I found myself unexpectedly in presence of a stately stag, looking at me as unconcernedly as if he had known of my empty pouches. I charged immediately with powder, and upon it a good handful of cherry-stones, for I had sucked the fruit as far as the hurry would permit. Thus I let fly at him, and hit him just on the middle of the forehead, between his antlers; it stunned him—he staggered—yet he made off. A year or two after, being with a party in the same forest, I beheld a noble stag with a fine full grown cherry-tree above ten feet high between his antlers. I immediately recollected my former adventure, looked upon him as my property, and brought him to the ground by one shot, which at once gave me the haunch and cherry-sauce; for the tree was covered with the richest fruit, the like I had never tasted before. Who knows but some passionate holy sportsman, or sporting abbot or bishop, may have shot, planted, and fixed the cross between the antlers of St. Hubert's stag, in a manner similar to this? They always have been, and still are, famous for plantations of crosses and antlers; and in a case of distress or dilemma, which too often happens to keen sportsmen, one is apt to grasp at anything for safety, and to try any expedient rather than miss the favourable opportunity. I have many times found myself in that trying situation.
What do you say of this, for example? Daylight and powder were spent one day in a Polish forest. When I was going home a terrible bear made up to me in great speed, with open mouth, ready to fall upon me; all my pockets were searched in an instant for powder and ball, but in vain; I found nothing but two spare flints: one I flung with all my might into the monster's open jaws, down his throat. It gave him pain and made him turn about, so that I could level the second at his back-door, which, indeed, I did with wonderful success; for it flew in, met the first flint in the stomach, struck fire, and blew up the bear with a terrible explosion. Though I came safe off that time, yet I should not wish to try it again, or venture against bears with no other ammunition.
There is a kind of fatality in it. The fiercest and most dangerous animals generally came upon me when defenceless, as if they had a notion or an instinctive intimation of it. Thus a frightful wolf rushed upon me so suddenly, and so close, that I could do nothing but follow mechanical instinct, and thrust my fist into his open mouth. For safety's sake I pushed on and on, till my arm was fairly in up to the shoulder. How should I disengage myself? I was not much pleased with my awkward situation—with a wolf face to face; our ogling was not of the most pleasant kind. If I withdrew my arm, then the animal would fly the more furiously upon me; that I saw in his flaming eyes. In short, I laid hold of his tail, turned him inside out like a glove, and flung him to the ground, where I left him.
The same expedient would not have answered against a mad dog, which soon after came running against me in a narrow street at St. Petersburg. Run who can, I thought; and to do this the better, I threw off my fur cloak, and was safe within doors in an instant. I sent my servant for the cloak, and he put it in the wardrobe with my other clothes. The day after I was amazed and frightened by Jack's bawling, "For God's sake, sir, your fur cloak is mad!" I hastened up to him, and found almost all my clothes tossed about and torn to pieces. The fellow was perfectly right in his apprehensions about the fur cloak's madness. I saw him myself just then falling upon a fine full-dress suit, which he shook and tossed in an unmerciful manner.
The effects of great activity and presence of mind—A favourite hound described, which pups while pursuing a hare; the hare also litters while pursued by the hound—Presented with a famous horse by Count Przobossky, with which he performs many extraordinary feats.
All these narrow and lucky escapes, gentlemen, were chances turned to advantage by presence of mind and vigorous exertions, which, taken together, as everybody knows, make the fortunate sportsman, sailor, and soldier; but he would be a very blamable and imprudent sportsman, admiral, or general, who would always depend upon chance and his stars, without troubling himself about those arts which are their particular pursuits, and without providing the very best implements, which insure success. I was not blamable either way; for I have always been as remarkable for the excellency of my horses, dogs, guns, and swords, as for the proper manner of using and managing them, so that upon the whole I may hope to be remembered in the forest, upon the turf, and in the field. I shall not enter here into any detail of my stables, kennel, or armoury; but a favourite bitch of mine I cannot help mentioning to you; she was a greyhound, and I never had or saw a better. She grew old in my service, and was not remarkable for her size, but rather for her uncommon swiftness. I always coursed with her. Had you seen her you must have admired her, and would not have wondered at my predilection, and at my coursing her so much. She ran so fast, so much, and so long in my service, that she actually ran off her legs; so that, in the latter part of her life, I was under the necessity of working and using her only as a terrier, in which quality she still served me many years.
Coursing one day a hare, which appeared to me uncommonly big, I pitied my poor bitch, being big with pups, yet she would course as fast as ever. I could follow her on horseback only at a great distance. At once I heard a cry as it were of a pack of hounds—but so weak and faint that I hardly knew what to make of it. Coming up to them, I was greatly surprised. The hare had littered in running; the same had happened to my bitch in coursing, and there were just as many leverets as pups. By instinct the former ran, the latter coursed: and thus I found myself in possession at once of six hares, and as many dogs, at the end of a course which had only begun with one.
I remember this, my wonderful bitch, with the same pleasure and tenderness as a superb Lithuanian horse, which no money could have bought. He became mine by an accident, which gave me an opportunity of showing my horsemanship to a great advantage. I was at Count Przobossky's noble country-seat in Lithuania, and remained with the ladies at tea in the drawing-room, while the gentlemen were down in the yard, to see a young horse of blood which had just arrived from the stud. We suddenly heard a noise of distress; I hastened down-stairs, and found the horse so unruly, that nobody durst approach or mount him. The most resolute horsemen stood dismayed and aghast; despondency was expressed in every countenance, when, in one leap, I was on his back, took him by surprise, and worked him quite into gentleness and obedience with the best display of horsemanship I was master of. Fully to show this to the ladies, and save them unnecessary trouble, I forced him to leap in at one of the open windows of the tea-room, walked round several times, pace, trot, and gallop, and at last made him mount the tea-table, there to repeat his lessons in a pretty style of miniature which was exceedingly pleasing to the ladies, for he performed them amazingly well, and did not break either cup or saucer. It placed me so high in their opinion, and so well in that of the noble lord, that, with his usual politeness, he begged I would accept of this young horse, and ride him full career to conquest and honour in the campaign against the Turks, which was soon to be opened, under the command of Count Munich.
I could not indeed have received a more agreeable present, nor a more ominous one at the opening of that campaign, in which I made my apprenticeship as a soldier. A horse so gentle, so spirited, and so fierce—at once a lamb and a Bucephalus, put me always in mind of the soldier's and the gentleman's duty! of young Alexander, and of the astonishing things he performed in the field.
We took the field, among several other reasons, it seems, with an intention to retrieve the character of the Russian arms, which had been blemished a little by Czar Peter's last campaign on the Pruth; and this we fully accomplished by several very fatiguing and glorious campaigns under the command of that great general I mentioned before.
Modesty forbids individuals to arrogate to themselves great successes or victories, the glory of which is generally engrossed by the commander—nay, which is rather awkward, by kings and queens who never smelt gunpowder but at the field-days and reviews of their troops; never saw a field of battle, or an enemy in battle array.
Nor do I claim any particular share of glory in the great engagements with the enemy. We all did our duty, which, in the patriot's, soldier's, and gentleman's language, is a very comprehensive word, of great honour, meaning, and import, and of which the generality of idle quidnuncs and coffee-house politicians can hardly form any but a very mean and contemptible idea. However, having had the command of a body of hussars, I went upon several expeditions, with discretionary powers; and the success I then met with is, I think, fairly and only to be placed to my account, and to that of the brave fellows whom I led on to conquest and to victory. We had very hot work once in the van of the army, when we drove the Turks into Oczakow. My spirited Lithuanian had almost brought me into a scrape: I had an advanced fore-post, and saw the enemy coming against me in a cloud of dust, which left me rather uncertain about their actual numbers and real intentions: to wrap myself up in a similar cloud was common prudence, but would not have much advanced my knowledge, or answered the end for which I had been sent out; therefore I let my flankers on both wings spread to the right and left and make what dust they could, and I myself led on straight upon the enemy, to have nearer sight of them: in this I was gratified, for they stood and fought, till, for fear of my flankers, they began to move off rather disorderly. This was the moment to fall upon them with spirit; we broke them entirely—made a terrible havoc amongst them, and drove them not only back to a walled town in their rear, but even through it, contrary to our most sanguine expectation.
The swiftness of my Lithuanian enabled me to be foremost in the pursuit; and seeing the enemy fairly flying through the opposite gate, I thought it would be prudent to stop in the market-place, to order the men to rendezvous. I stopped, gentlemen; but judge of my astonishment when in this market-place I saw not one of my hussars about me! Are they scouring the other streets? or what is become of them? They could not be far off, and must, at all events, soon join me. In that expectation I walked my panting Lithuanian to a spring in this market-place, and let him drink. He drank uncommonly, with an eagerness not to be satisfied, but natural enough; for when I looked round for my men, what should I see, gentlemen! the hind part of the poor creature—croup and legs were missing, as if he had been cut in two, and the water ran out as it came in, without refreshing or doing him any good! How it could have happened was quite a mystery to me, till I returned with him to the town-gate. There I saw, that when I rushed in pell-mell with the flying enemy, they had dropped the portcullis (a heavy falling door, with sharp spikes at the bottom, let down suddenly to prevent the entrance of an enemy into a fortified town) unperceived by me, which had totally cut off his hind part, that still lay quivering on the outside of the gate. It would have been an irreparable loss, had not our farrier contrived to bring both parts together while hot. He sewed them up with sprigs and young shoots of laurels that were at hand; the wound healed, and, what could not have happened but to so glorious a horse, the sprigs took root in his body, grew up, and formed a bower over me; so that afterwards I could go upon many other expeditions in the shade of my own and my horse's laurels.
The Baron is made a prisoner of war, and sold for a slave—Keeps the Sultan's bees, which are attacked by two bears—Loses one of his bees; a silver hatchet, which he throws at the bears, rebounds and flies up to the moon; brings it back by an ingenious invention; falls to the earth on his return, and helps himself out of a pit—Extricates himself from a carriage which meets his in a narrow road, in a manner never before attempted nor practised since—The wonderful effects of the frost upon his servant's French horn.
I was not always successful. I had the misfortune to be overpowered by numbers, to be made prisoner of war; and, what is worse, but always usual among the Turks, to be sold for a slave. [The Baron was afterwards in great favour with the Grand Seignior, as will appear hereafter.] In that state of humiliation my daily task was not very hard and laborious, but rather singular and irksome. It was to drive the Sultan's bees every morning to their pasture-grounds, to attend them all the day long, and against night to drive them back to their hives. One evening I missed a bee, and soon observed that two bears had fallen upon her to tear her to pieces for the honey she carried. I had nothing like an offensive weapon in my hands but the silver hatchet, which is the badge of the Sultan's gardeners and farmers. I threw it at the robbers, with an intention to frighten them away, and set the poor bee at liberty; but, by an unlucky turn of my arm, it flew upwards, and continued rising till it reached the moon. How should I recover it? how fetch it down again? I recollected that Turkey-beans grow very quick, and run up to an astonishing height. I planted one immediately; it grew, and actually fastened itself to one of the moon's horns. I had no more to do now but to climb up by it into the moon, where I safely arrived, and had a troublesome piece of business before I could find my silver hatchet, in a place where everything has the brightness of silver; at last, however, I found it in a heap of chaff and chopped straw. I was now for returning: but, alas! the heat of the sun had dried up my bean; it was totally useless for my descent: so I fell to work, and twisted me a rope of that chopped straw, as long and as well as I could make it. This I fastened to one of the moon's horns, and slid down to the end of it. Here I held myself fast with the left hand, and with the hatchet in my right, I cut the long, now useless end of the upper part, which, when tied to the lower end, brought me a good deal lower: this repeated splicing and tying of the rope did not improve its quality, or bring me down to the Sultan's farm. I was four or five miles from the earth at least when it broke; I fell to the ground with such amazing violence, that I found myself stunned, and in a hole nine fathoms deep at least, made by the weight of my body falling from so great a height: I recovered, but knew not how to get out again; however, I dug slopes or steps with my finger-nails [the Baron's nails were then of forty years' growth], and easily accomplished it.
Peace was soon after concluded with the Turks, and gaining my liberty, I left St. Petersburg at the time of that singular revolution, when the emperor in his cradle, his mother, the Duke of Brunswick, her father, Field-Marshal Munich, and many others were sent to Siberia. The winter was then so uncommonly severe all over Europe, that ever since the sun seems to be frost-bitten. At my return to this place, I felt on the road greater inconveniences than those I had experienced on my setting out.
I travelled post, and finding myself in a narrow lane, bid the postillion give a signal with his horn, that other travellers might not meet us in the narrow passage. He blew with all his might; but his endeavours were in vain, he could not make the horn sound, which was unaccountable, and rather unfortunate, for soon after we found ourselves in the presence of another coach coming the other way: there was no proceeding; however, I got out of my carriage, and being pretty strong, placed it, wheels and all, upon my head: I then jumped over a hedge about nine feet high (which, considering the weight of the coach, was rather difficult) into a field, and came out again by another jump into the road beyond the other carriage: I then went back for the horses, and placing one upon my head, and the other under my left arm, by the same means brought them to my coach, put to, and proceeded to an inn at the end of our stage. I should have told you that the horse under my arm was very spirited, and not above four years old; in making my second spring over the hedge, he expressed great dislike to that violent kind of motion by kicking and snorting; however, I confined his hind legs by putting them into my coat-pocket. After we arrived at the inn my postillion and I refreshed ourselves: he hung his horn on a peg near the kitchen fire; I sat on the other side.
Suddenly we heard a tereng! tereng! teng! teng! We looked round, and now found the reason why the postillion had not been able to sound his horn; his tunes were frozen up in the horn, and came out now by thawing, plain enough, and much to the credit of the driver; so that the honest fellow entertained us for some time with a variety of tunes, without putting his mouth to the horn—"The King of Prussia's March," "Over the Hill and over the Dale," with many other favourite tunes; at length the thawing entertainment concluded, as I shall this short account of my Russian travels.
Some travellers are apt to advance more than is perhaps strictly true; if any of the company entertain a doubt of my veracity, I shall only say to such, I pity their want of faith, and must request they will take leave before I begin the second part of my adventures, which are as strictly founded in fact as those I have already related.
The Baron relates his adventures on a voyage to North America, which are well worth the reader's attention—Pranks of a whale—A sea-gull saves a sailor's life—The Baron's head forced into his stomach—A dangerous leak stopped a posteriori.
I embarked at Portsmouth in a first-rate English man-of-war, of one hundred guns, and fourteen hundred men, for North America. Nothing worth relating happened till we arrived within three hundred leagues of the river St. Laurence, when the ship struck with amazing force against (as we supposed) a rock; however, upon heaving the lead we could find no bottom, even with three hundred fathom. What made this circumstance the more wonderful, and indeed beyond all comprehension, was, that the violence of the shock was such that we lost our rudder, broke our bowsprit in the middle, and split all our masts from top to bottom, two of which went by the board; a poor fellow, who was aloft furling the mainsheet, was flung at least three leagues from the ship; but he fortunately saved his life by laying hold of the tail of a large sea-gull, who brought him back, and lodged him on the very spot from whence he was thrown. Another proof of the violence of the shock was the force with which the people between decks were driven against the floors above them; my head particularly was pressed into my stomach, where it continued some months before it recovered its natural situation. Whilst we were all in a state of astonishment at the general and unaccountable confusion in which we were involved, the whole was suddenly explained by the appearance of a large whale, who had been basking, asleep, within sixteen feet of the surface of the water. This animal was so much displeased with the disturbance which our ship had given him—for in our passage we had with our rudder scratched his nose—that he beat in all the gallery and part of the quarter-deck with his tail, and almost at the same instant took the mainsheet anchor, which was suspended, as it usually is, from the head, between his teeth, and ran away with the ship, at least sixty leagues, at the rate of twelve leagues an hour, when fortunately the cable broke, and we lost both the whale and the anchor. However, upon our return to Europe, some months after, we found the same whale within a few leagues of the same spot, floating dead upon the water; it measured above half a mile in length. As we could take but a small quantity of such a monstrous animal on board, we got our boats out, and with much difficulty cut off his head, where, to our great joy, we found the anchor, and above forty fathom of the cable, concealed on the left side of his mouth, just under his tongue. [Perhaps this was the cause of his death, as that side of his tongue was much swelled, with a great degree of inflammation.] This was the only extraordinary circumstance that happened on this voyage. One part of our distress, however, I had like to have forgot: while the whale was running away with the ship she sprung a leak, and the water poured in so fast, that all our pumps could not keep us from sinking; it was, however, my good fortune to discover it first. I found it a large hole about a foot diameter; you will naturally suppose this circumstance gives me infinite pleasure, when I inform you that this noble vessel was preserved, with all its crew, by a most fortunate thought! in short, I sat down over it, and could have dispensed with it had it been larger; nor will you be surprised when I inform you I am descended from Dutch parents. [The Baron's ancestors have but lately settled there; in another part of his adventures he boasts of royal blood.]
My situation, while I sat there, was rather cool, but the carpenter's art soon relieved me.
Bathes in the Mediterranean—Meets an unexpected companion—Arrives unintentionally in the regions of heat and darkness, from which he is extricated by dancing a hornpipe—Frightens his deliverers, and returns on shore.
I was once in great danger of being lost in a most singular manner in the Mediterranean: I was bathing in that pleasant sea near Marseilles one summer's afternoon, when I discovered a very large fish, with his jaws quite extended, approaching me with the greatest velocity; there was no time to be lost, nor could I possibly avoid him. I immediately reduced myself to as small a size as possible, by closing my feet and placing my hands also near my sides, in which position I passed directly between his jaws, and into his stomach, where I remained some time in total darkness, and comfortably warm, as you may imagine; at last it occurred to me, that by giving him pain he would be glad to get rid of me: as I had plenty of room, I played my pranks, such as tumbling, hop, step, and jump, &c., but nothing seemed to disturb him so much as the quick motion of my feet in attempting to dance a hornpipe; soon after I began he put me out by sudden fits and starts: I persevered; at last he roared horridly, and stood up almost perpendicularly in the water, with his head and shoulders exposed, by which he was discovered by the people on board an Italian trader, then sailing by, who harpooned him in a few minutes. As soon as he was brought on board I heard the crew consulting how they should cut him up, so as to preserve the greatest quantity of oil. As I understood Italian, I was in most dreadful apprehensions lest their weapons employed in this business should destroy me also; therefore I stood as near the centre as possible, for there was room enough for a dozen men in this creature's stomach, and I naturally imagined they would begin with the extremities; however, my fears were soon dispersed, for they began by opening the bottom of the belly. As soon as I perceived a glimmering of light I called out lustily to be released from a situation in which I was now almost suffocated. It is impossible for me to do justice to the degree and kind of astonishment which sat upon every countenance at hearing a human voice issue from a fish, but more so at seeing a naked man walk upright out of his body; in short, gentlemen, I told them the whole story, as I have done you, whilst amazement struck them dumb.
After taking some refreshment, and jumping into the sea to cleanse myself, I swam to my clothes, which lay where I had left them on the shore. As near as I can calculate, I was near four hours and a half confined in the stomach of this animal.
Adventures in Turkey, and upon the river Nile—Sees a balloon over Constantinople; shoots at, and brings it down; finds a French experimental philosopher suspended from it—Goes on an embassy to Grand Cairo, and returns upon the Nile, where he is thrown into an unexpected situation, and detained six weeks.
When I was in the service of the Turks I frequently amused myself in a pleasure-barge on the Marmora, which commands a view of the whole city of Constantinople, including the Grand Seignior's Seraglio. One morning, as I was admiring the beauty and serenity of the sky, I observed a globular substance in the air, which appeared to be about the size of a twelve-inch globe, with somewhat suspended from it. I immediately took up my largest and longest barrel fowling-piece, which I never travel or make even an excursion without, if I can help it; I charged with a ball, and fired at the globe, but to no purpose, the object being at too great a distance. I then put in a double quantity of powder, and five or six balls: this second attempt succeeded; all the balls took effect, and tore one side open, and brought it down. Judge my surprise when a most elegant gilt car, with a man in it, and part of a sheep which seemed to have been roasted, fell within two yards of me. When my astonishment had in some degree subsided, I ordered my people to row close to this strange aerial traveller.
I took him on board my barge (he was a native of France): he was much indisposed from his sudden fall into the sea, and incapable of speaking; after some time, however, he recovered, and gave the following account of himself, viz.: "About seven or eight days since, I cannot tell which, for I have lost my reckoning, having been most of the time where the sun never sets, I ascended from the Land's End in Cornwall, in the island of Great Britain, in the car from which I have been just taken, suspended from a very large balloon, and took a sheep with me to try atmospheric experiments upon: unfortunately, the wind changed within ten minutes after my ascent, and instead of driving towards Exeter, where I intended to land, I was driven towards the sea, over which I suppose I have continued ever since, but much too high to make observations.
"The calls of hunger were so pressing, that the intended experiments upon heat and respiration gave way to them. I was obliged, on the third day, to kill the sheep for food; and being at that time infinitely above the moon, and for upwards of sixteen hours after so very near the sun that it scorched my eyebrows, I placed the carcase, taking care to skin it first, in that part of the car where the sun had sufficient power, or, in other words, where the balloon did not shade it from the sun, by which method it was well roasted in about two hours. This has been my food ever since." Here he paused, and seemed lost in viewing the objects about him. When I told him the buildings before us were the Grand Seignior's Seraglio at Constantinople, he seemed exceedingly affected, as he had supposed himself in a very different situation. "The cause," added he, "of my long flight, was owing to the failure of a string which was fixed to a valve in the balloon, intended to let out the inflammable air; and if it had not been fired at, and rent in the manner before mentioned, I might, like Mahomet, have been suspended between heaven and earth till doomsday."
The Grand Seignior, to whom I was introduced by the Imperial, Russian, and French ambassadors, employed me to negotiate a matter of great importance at Grand Cairo, and which was of such a nature that it must ever remain a secret.
I went there in great state by land; where, having completed the business, I dismissed almost all my attendants, and returned like a private gentleman; the weather was delightful, and that famous river the Nile was beautiful beyond all description; in short, I was tempted to hire a barge to descend by water to Alexandria. On the third day of my voyage the river began to rise most amazingly (you have all heard, I presume, of the annual overflowing of the Nile), and on the next day it spread the whole country for many leagues on each side! On the fifth, at sunrise, my barge became entangled with what I at first took for shrubs, but as the light became stronger I found myself surrounded by almonds, which were perfectly ripe, and in the highest perfection. Upon plumbing with a line my people found we were at least sixty feet from the ground, and unable to advance or retreat. At about eight or nine o'clock, as near as I could judge by the altitude of the sun, the wind rose suddenly, and canted our barge on one side: here she filled, and I saw no more of her for some time. Fortunately we all saved ourselves (six men and two boys) by clinging to the tree, the boughs of which were equal to our weight, though not to that of the barge: in this situation we continued six weeks and three days, living upon the almonds; I need not inform you we had plenty of water. On the forty-second day of our distress the water fell as rapidly as it had risen, and on the forty-sixth we were able to venture down upon terra firma. Our barge was the first pleasing object we saw, about two hundred yards from the spot where she sunk. After drying everything that was useful by the heat of the sun, and loading ourselves with necessaries from the stores on board, we set out to recover our lost ground, and found, by the nearest calculation, we had been carried over garden-walls, and a variety of enclosures, above one hundred and fifty miles. In four days, after a very tiresome journey on foot, with thin shoes, we reached the river, which was now confined to its banks, related our adventures to a boy, who kindly accommodated all our wants, and sent us forward in a barge of his own. In six days more we arrived at Alexandria, where we took shipping for Constantinople. I was received kindly by the Grand Seignior, and had the honour of seeing the Seraglio, to which his highness introduced me himself.
Pays a visit during the siege of Gibraltar to his old friend General Elliot—Sinks a Spanish man-of-war—Wakes an old woman on the African coast—Destroys all the enemy's cannon; frightens the Count d'Artois, and sends him to Paris—Saves the lives of two English spies with the identical sling that killed Goliath; and raises the siege.
During the late siege of Gibraltar I went with a provision-fleet, under Lord Rodney's command, to see my old friend General Elliot, who has, by his distinguished defence of that place, acquired laurels that can never fade. After the usual joy which generally attends the meeting of old friends had subsided, I went to examine the state of the garrison, and view the operations of the enemy, for which purpose the General accompanied me. I had brought a most excellent refracting telescope with me from London, purchased of Dollond, by the help of which I found the enemy were going to discharge a thirty-six pounder at the spot where we stood. I told the General what they were about; he looked through the glass also, and found my conjectures right. I immediately, by his permission, ordered a forty-eight pounder to be brought from a neighbouring battery, which I placed with so much exactness (having long studied the art of gunnery) that I was sure of my mark.