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Mr. Munchausen

Being a TRUE ACCOUNT of some of the RECENT ADVENTURES beyond the STYX of the late HIERONYMUS CARL FRIEDRICH, sometime BARON MUNCHAUSEN of BODENWERDER, as originally reported for the SUNDAY EDITION of the GEHENNA GAZETTE by its SPECIAL INTERVIEWER the late Mr. ANANIAS formerly of JERUSALEM and now first transcribed from the columns of that JOURNAL

by
 
JOHN KENDRICK BANGS
 
Embellished with Drawings by Peter Newell

 


MR. MUNCHAUSEN



Boston: Printed for Noyes, Platt & Company
and published by them at their offices in the Pierce Building in Copley Square,
A.D. 1901

Copyright, 1901, by Noyes, Platt & Company, (Incorporated)
Entered at Stationers' Hall
The lithographed illustrations are printed in eight colours by George H. Walker and Company, Boston
Press of Riggs Printing and Publishing Co. Albany, N. Y., U. S. A.

  

EDITOR'S APOLOGY and DEDICATION

 In order that there may be no misunderstanding as to the why and the wherefore of this collection of tales it appears to me to be desirable that I should at the outset state my reasons for acting as the medium between the spirit of the late Baron Munchausen and the reading public. In common with a large number of other great men in history Baron Munchausen has suffered because he is not understood. I have observed with wondering surprise the steady and constant growth of the idea that Baron Munchausen was not a man of truth; that his statements of fact were untrustworthy, and that as a realist he had no standing whatsoever. Just how this misconception of the man's character has arisen it would be difficult to say. Surely in his published writings he shows that same lofty resolve to be true to life as he has seen it that characterises the work of some of the high Apostles of Realism, who are writing of the things that will teach future generations how we of to-day ordered our goings-on. The note of veracity in Baron Munchausen's early literary venturings rings as clear and as true certainly as the similar note in the charming studies of Manx Realism that have come to us of late years from the pen of Mr. Corridor Walkingstick, of Gloomster Abbey and London. We all remember the glow of satisfaction with which we read Mr. Walkingstick's great story of the love of the clergyman, John Stress, for the charming little heroine, Glory Partridge. Here was something at last that rang true. The picture was painted in the boldest of colours, and, regardless of consequences to himself, Mr. Walkingstick dared to be real when he might have given rein to his imagination. Mr. Walkingstick was, thereupon, lifted up by popular favour to the level of an apostle — nay, he even admitted the soft impeachment — and now as a moral teacher he is without a rival in the world of literature. Yet the same age that accepts this man as a moral teacher, rejects Baron Munchausen, who, in different manner perhaps, presented to the world as true and life-like a picture of the conditions of his day as that given to us by Mr. Walkingstick in his deservedly popular romance, "Episcopalians I have Met." Of course, I do not claim that Baron Munchausen's stories in bulk or in specified instances, have the literary vigour that is so marked a quality of the latter-day writer, but the point I do wish to urge is that to accept the one as a veracious chronicler of his time and to reject the other as one who indulges his pen in all sorts of grotesque vagaries, without proper regard for the facts, is a great injustice to the man of other times. The question arises, why is this? How has this wrong upon the worthy realist of the eighteenth century been perpetrated? Is it an intentional or an unwitting wrong? I prefer to believe that it is based upon ignorance of the Baron's true quality, due to the fact that his works are rarely to be found within the reach of the public: in some cases, because of the failure of librarians to comprehend his real motives, his narratives are excluded from Public and Sunday-School libraries; and because of their extreme age, they are not easily again brought into vogue. I have, therefore, accepted the office of intermediary between the Baron and the readers of the present day, in order that his later work, which, while it shows to a marked degree the decadence of his literary powers, may yet serve to demonstrate to the readers of my own time how favourably he compares with some of the literary idols of to-day, in the simple matter of fidelity to fact. If these stories which follow shall serve to rehabilitate Baron Munchausen as a lover and practitioner of the arts of Truth, I shall not have made the sacrifice of my time in vain. If they fail of this purpose I shall still have the satisfaction of knowing that I have tried to render a service to an honest and defenceless man.

Meanwhile I dedicate this volume, with sentiments of the highest regard, to that other great realist

MR. CORRIDOR WALKINGSTICK 
of
GLOOMSTER ABBEY

J. K. B.


List of Illustrations

Portrait of Mr. Munchausen
"There was the whale, drawn by magnetic influence to the side of The Lyre"   
"As their bullets got to their highest point and began to drop back, I reached out and caught them"   
"I got nearer and nearer my haven of safety, the bellowing beasts snorting with rage as they followed"   
"Jang buzzed over and sat on his back, putting his sting where it would do the most good"   
"Out of what appeared to be a clear sky came the most extraordinary rain storm you ever saw"   
"'I am your slave,' he replied to my greeting, kneeling before me, 'I yield all to you'"  
"I reached the giraffe, raised myself to his back, crawled along his neck and dropped fainting into the tree"   
"They were celebrating Decoration Day, strewing flowers on the graves of departed missionaries"   
"I laughed in the poor disappointed thing's face, and with a howl of despair he rushed back into the sea"   
"This brought my speed down ten minutes to the mile which made it safe for me to run into a haystack"   
"At the first whoop Mr. Bear jumped ten feet and fell over backward on the floor"   
"He used to wind his tail about a fan and he'd wave it to  and fro by the hour"   
"Most singular of all was the fact that, consciously or unconsciously, the insect had butted out a verse"   
"Again I swung my red-flagged brassey in front of the angry creature's face, and what I had hoped for followed"