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BARON MUNCHAUSEN

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 2 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BARON MUNCHAUSEN. This name is famous in literary history on account of the amusingly mendacious stories known as the Adventures of Baron Munchausen. In 1785 a little shilling book of 49 pages was published in London (as we know from the Critical Review for December 1785), called Baron Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia. No copy is known to exist, but a second edition (apparently identical) was printed at Oxford early in 1786. The publisher of both these editions was a certain Smith, and he then sold it to another bookseller named Kearsley, who brought out in 1786 an enlarged edition (the additions to which were stated in the 7th edition not to be by the original author), with illustrations under the title of 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. Four editions rapidly succeeded, and a free German translation by the poet Gottfried August Burger, from the fifth edition, was printed at Gottingen in 1786. The seventh English edition (1793), which is the usual text, has the moral sub-title, Or the Vice of Lying properly exposed, and had further new additions. In 1792 a Sequel appeared, dedicated to James Bruce, the African traveller, whose Travels to Discover the Nile (1790) had led to incredulity and ridicule. As time went on Munchausen increased in popularity and was translated into many languages. Continuations were published, and new illustrations provided (e.g. by T. Rowlandson, 1809; A. Crowquill, 1859; A. Cruikshank, 1869; the French artist Richard, 1878; Gustave Dore, 1862; W. Strang and J. B. Clark, 1895). The theme of Baron Munchausen, the " drawer of the long-bow " par excellence, has become part of the common stock of the world's story-telling. The original author was at first unknown, and until 1824 he was generally identified with Burger, who made the German translation of 1786. But Burger's biographer, Karl von Rein-hard, in the Berlin Gesellschafter of November 1824, set the matter at rest by stating that the real author was Rudolf Erich Raspe (q.v.). Raspe had apparently become acquainted at Gottingen with Hieronymus Karl Friedrich, Freiherr von Munchhausen, of Bodenwerder in Hanover. This Freiherr von Munchhausen (1720-1797) had been in the Russian service and 11 served against the Turks, and on retiring in 176o he lived on his estates at Bodenwerder and used to amuse himself and his friends, and puzzle the quidnuncs and the dull-witted, by relating extraordinary instances of his prowess as soldier and sportsman. His stories became a byword among his circle, and Raspe, when hard up for a living in London, utilized the suggestion for his little brochure. But his narrative owed much also to such sources, known to Raspe, as Heinrich Bebel's Facetiae bebelianae (1508), J. P. Lange's Deliciae academicae (1665), a section of which is called Mendacia ridicula, Castiglione's Cortegiano (1528), the Travels of the Finkenritter, attributed to Lorenz von Lauterbach in the 16th century, and other works of this sort. Raspe can only be held responsible for the nucleus of the book; the additions were made by book-sellers' hacks, from such sources as Lucian's Vera historia, or the Voyages inraginaires (1787), while suggestions were taken from Baron de Tott's Memoirs (Eng. trans. 1785), the contemporary aeronautical feats of Montgolfier and Blanchard, and any topical " sensations " of the mement, such as Bruce's explorations in Africa. Munchausen is thus a medley, as we have it, a classical instance of the fantastical mendacious literary genre. See the introduction by T. Seccombe to Lawrence and Bullen's edition of 1895. Adolf Ellisen, whose father visited Freiherr von Munchhausen in 1795 and found him very uncommunicative, brought out a German edition in 1849, with a valuable essay on pseudology in general. There is useful material in Carl Muller-Fraureuth's Die deutschen Liigendichtungen auf Miinchhausen (1881) and in Griesbach's edition of Burger's translation (1890). MUNCH-BELLINGHAUSEN, ELIGIUS FRANZ JOSEPH, FREIHERR VON (1806-1871), Austrian poet and dramatist (who wrote under the pseudonym " Friedrich Halm "), was born at Cracow on the 2nd of April 18o6, the son of a district judge. Educated at first at a private school in Vienna, he afterwards attended lectures at the university, and in 1826, at the early age of twenty, married and entered the government service. In 184o he became Regierungsrat, in 1845 Hofrat and custodian of the royal library, in 1861 life member of the Austrian Herrenhaus (upper chamber), and from 186g to 1871 was intendant of the two court theatres in Vienna. He died at Hutteldorf near Vienna on the 22nd of May 1871. Munch-Bellinghausen's dramas, among them notably Griseldis (1835; publ. 1837; filth ed.. 1896), Der Adept (1836; publ. 1838), Camoens (1838), Der Sohn der Wildnis (1842; loth ed., 1896), and Der Fechter von Ravenna (1854; publ. 1857; 6th ed., 1894), are distinguished by elegance of language, melodious versification and clever construction, and were for a time exceedingly popular. His poems, Gedichte, were published in Stuttgart, 185o (new ed., Vienna. 1877). His works, Si rmtliche Werke, were published in eight volumes (1856-1864), to which four posthumous volumes were added in 1872. Ausgewahlte Werke, ed. by A. Schlossar, 4 vols. (1904). See F. Pachler, Jugend and Lehrjahre des Dichters F. Halm (1877); J. Simiani, Gedenkblatter an F. Halm (1873). Halm's correspondence with Enk von der Burg has been published by R. Schachinger (1890).
End of Article: BARON MUNCHAUSEN
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