The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 3,418 pages of information about The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3.

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On the first of April will be performed at the Play-house in the
Hay-market, an Opera call’d ‘The Cruelty of Atreus’.

N.B.  The Scene wherein Thyestes eats his own Children, is to be
performed by the famous Mr Psalmanazar, [1] lately
arrived from Formosa; The whole Supper
being set to Kettle-drums.


[Footnote 1:  George Psalmanazar, who never told his real name and precise birthplace, was an impostor from Languedoc, and 31 years old in 1711.  He had been educated in a Jesuit college, where he heard stories of the Jesuit missions in Japan and Formosa, which suggested to him how he might thrive abroad as an interesting native.  He enlisted as a soldier, and had in his character of Japanese only a small notoriety until, at Sluys, a dishonest young chaplain of Brigadier Lauder’s Scotch regiment, saw through the trick and favoured it, that he might recommend himself to the Bishop of London for promotion.  He professed to have converted Psalmanazar, baptized him, with the Brigadier for godfather, got his discharge from the regiment, and launched him upon London under the patronage of Bishop Compton.  Here Psalmanazar, who on his arrival was between nineteen and twenty years old, became famous in the religious world.  He supported his fraud by invention of a language and letters, and of a Formosan religion.  To oblige the Bishop he translated the church catechism into ‘Formosan,’ and he published in 1704 ’an historical and geographical Description of Formosa,’ of which a second edition appeared in the following year.  It contained numerous plates of imaginary scenes and persons.  His gross and puerile absurdities in print and conversation—­such as his statements that the Formosans sacrificed eighteen thousand male infants every year, and that the Japanese studied Greek as a learned tongue,—­excited a distrust that would have been fatal to the success of his fraud, even with the credulous, if he had not forced himself to give colour to his story by acting the savage in men’s eyes.  But he must really, it was thought, be a savage who fed upon roots, herbs, and raw flesh.  He made, however, so little by the imposture, that he at last confessed himself a cheat, and got his living as a well-conducted bookseller’s hack for many years before his death, in 1763, aged 84.  In 1711, when this jest was penned, he had not yet publicly eaten his own children, i.e. swallowed his words and declared his writings forgeries.  In 1716 there was a subscription of L20 or L30 a year raised for him as a Formosan convert.  It was in 1728 that he began to write that formal confession of his fraud, which he left for publication after his death, and whereby he made his great public appearance as Thyestes.

This jest against Psalmanazar was expunged from the first reprint of the Spectator in 1712, and did not reappear in the lifetime of Steele or Addison, or until long after it had been amply justified.]

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The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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