We have had not only wonderful travellers in this vile world, but splenetic travellers, and of these not a few, and also conspicuous enough. It is a pity, therefore, that the Baron has not endeavoured to surpass them also in this species of story-telling. Who is it can read the travels of Smellfungus, as Sterne calls him, without admiration? To think that a person from the North of Scotland should travel through some of the finest countries in Europe, and find fault with everything he meets—nothing to please him! And therefore, methinks, the Tour to the Hebrides is more excusable, and also perhaps Mr. Twiss’s Tour in Ireland. Dr. Johnson, bred in the luxuriance of London, with more reason should become cross and splenetic in the bleak and dreary regions of the Hebrides.
The Baron, in the following work, seems to be sometimes philosophical; his account of the language of the interior of Africa, and its analogy with that of the inhabitants of the moon, show him to be profoundly versed in the etymological antiquities of nations, and throw new light upon the abstruse history of the ancient Scythians, and the Collectanea.
His endeavour to abolish the custom of eating live flesh in the interior of Africa, as described in Bruce’s Travels, is truly humane. But far be it from me to suppose, that by Gog and Magog and the Lord Mayor’s show he means a satire upon any person or body of persons whatever: or, by a tedious litigated trial of blind judges and dumb matrons following a wild goose chase all round the world, he should glance at any trial whatever.
Nevertheless, I must allow that it was extremely presumptuous in Munchausen to tell half the sovereigns of the world that they were wrong, and advise them what they ought to do; and that instead of ordering millions of their subjects to massacre one another, it would be more to their interest to employ their forces in concert for the general good; as if he knew better than the Empress of Russia, the Grand Vizier, Prince Potemkin, or any other butcher in the world. But that he should be a royal Aristocrat, and take the part of the injured Queen of France in the present political drama, I am not at all surprised; but I suppose his mind was fired by reading the pamphlet written by Mr. Burke.
The Baron insists on the veracity of his former Memoirs—Forms a design of making discoveries in the interior parts of Africa—His discourse with Hilaro Frosticos about it—His conversation with Lady Fragrantia—The Baron goes, with other persons of distinction, to Court; relates an anecdote of the Marquis de Bellecourt.
All that I have related before, said the Baron, is gospel; and if there be any one so hardy as to deny it, I am ready to fight him with any weapon he pleases. Yes, cried he, in a more elevated tone, as he started from his seat, I will condemn him to swallow this decanter, glass and all perhaps, and filled with kerren-wasser [a kind of ardent spirit distilled from cherries, and much used in some parts of Germany]. Therefore, my dear friends and companions, have confidence in what I say, and pay honour to the tales of Munchausen. A traveller has a right to relate and embellish his adventures as he pleases, and it is very unpolite to refuse that deference and applause they deserve.