Baume, Pierre Henri Joseph (DNB00)

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BAUME, PIERRE HENRI JOSEPH (1797–1875), socialist, was born at Marseilles in 1797. When he was still young his father removed to Naples, and the boy was placed in a military college in that city. In his eighteenth year he became private secretary to King Ferdinand. He left Italy and came to England about 1825, where he was always more or less associated with the advocates of social change. In 1832 he took out letters of naturalisation. He was in succession a preacher of the doctrine of ‘reforming optimism,’ a theatrical manager, the curator and proprietor of some ‘model experimental gardens’ near Holloway, and a promoter in Manchester of public-houses without intoxicating drinks. For many years his mind was bent upon the establishment of a great educational institute upon a communistic basis. To carry out this project he denied himself not only luxuries, but almost the necessaries of life. He acquired a large estate, valued at 40,000l., at Colney Hatch, and another in Buckinghamshire, estimated to be worth 4,000l.; but so many obstacles presented themselves that he gave up his long-cherished plan. During the course of the Owenite socialist agitation his fine form, considerable knowledge, ready speech, and power of devising astonishing placards and proclamations made him a notable man. A boy whom he had adopted was publicly ‘named’ by Owen. He was believed to have amassed a fortune as a foreign spy, and his mysterious ways added to his reputation. For several years Baume resided in Manchester, where he organised Sunday lectures, but in 1857 he paid a visit to the Isle of Man, and was so pleased with the place that he took up his residence there in a house in the Archway, Douglas. Here his natural eccentricities increased. His rooms were so crowded with books, mostly of an antique and musty character, that there was no room for a bed, and he slept in a hammock swung from the roof of the room. Only those who possessed the secret of a peculiar knock were admitted. He lived for years in a very wretched style, but in 1874 was induced to take up his abode in more comfortable quarters. His ‘experimental gardens,’ as he called them, were almost opposite the present Pentonville Prison, and were known as the ‘Frenchman's Island,’ about which he used to wander in the night-time with a pistol, to frighten off unwelcome visitors. He was exceedingly abstemious in diet, living chiefly upon peas, which he carried in his pocket. The reason he always adduced for this self-denying existence was that he wished to leave as much as possible for charitable uses. The sincerity of this declaration was proved on his death, at Duke Street, Douglas, on 28 Oct. 1875, when it was found that all his property, including about 10,000l., in addition to the value of the estates already named, was left in trust for philanthropic purposes in the Isle of Man. This disposition was accompanied by some curious provisions. He was buried on 2 Nov. at St. George's, Douglas. A posthumous bust of him was executed by Mr. E. E. Geflowski.

[Manchester Guardian, 30 Oct. 1875; Holyoake's History of Co-operation, London, 1875, i. 220, 349, ii. 401–5; private information.]

W. E. A. A.