Baron Munchenhausen is notable as one of the most notorious liars of the 19th century and this book recounts his highly unlikely stories of adventure and escapes. The Baron himself was a German soldier, who fought in the Russian-Turkish Wars, but his only claim to fame was his notorious propensity for exaggeration and outright fabrication in recounting his exploits therein. He is credited with coining the term 'bootstrap', by way of explaining how he escape from a swamp (by pulling himself out by his own bootstrap).
BARON VON MUNCHAUSEN
As many youthful readers may wonder who or what Munchausen is; and as even those who have heard of his adventures may be in doubt as to whether the hero ever existed; it seems well to state here that the family of Munchausen is well known in certain parts of Germany, and is one from which many eminent men have sprung. At the present day its name is borne by various officials in the civil service and by officers of high rank in the army.
Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Baron von Munchausen, was born in Bodenwerder in Hanover, in May, 1720, and died in February, 1797. In 1737 he served in Russian campaigns against the Turks, and after his return acquired great notoriety by his exaggerated stories of adventure. A collection of stories attributed to him, was first published in England in 1785, under the title of Baron Munchausen's Narrative of His Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia. It acquired great popularity and was translated into German the following year.
It is not definitely known who first issued these stories in book form, but it was probably the work of one Rudolph Erich Raspe, a schol¬arly and versatile author, but a great rogue, who had taken refuge in England from the arm of German law. He swindled Sir John Sinclair as a mining expert, and this exploit suggested his Dousterswivel to Sir Walter Scott. Eventually he died of fever in Donegal.
Munchausen’s stories are so outrageous, and he asserts so strongly that they are all strictly true, that his name has become proverbial as a synonym of extravagant boasting. One thing is certain; many of the stories attributed to him are very old, and have, at times, appeared in French, Spanish, Welsh and Greek literature.
|J. H. W.|