Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/757

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THE HISTORY OF A DELUSION.

THE HISTORY OF A DELUSION.
By M. G. VALBERT.

IN the year of grace 1838, MM. d'Ennery and Anicet Bourgeois presented at the Théâtre l'Ambigu a drama entitled "Gaspard Hauser." In the same year "The Poor Idiot of the Cellar of Elberg" was played at le Gaitée, the Poor Idiot being also Gaspard or Caspar Hauser. Although he had been dead five years, impressible people still continued to be interested in the puzzle of his identity. The world had been full of his name and of the fame of his mysterious adventures, and he had been surnamed the child of Europe. To-day we French have almost forgotten him; but the Germans have not ceased to be occupied with him and to search for the solution of an enigma which has caused floods of ink to be shed, and has been the occasion of violent and abusive polemics.

In 1872, Dr. Julius Meyer published "Authentic Communications respecting Caspar Hauser." He provoked a lively response from professor Daumer, who published a new and learned study on the child of Europe, "upon his innocence, his sufferings, and his origin." He declared in it that "every good German was bound to believe in the princely origin of Caspar Hauser, and that one could not doubt it without making proof of rationalistic and satanic incredulity." In 1882 an anonymous pamphlet was published at Ratisbon which was intended to demonstrate again to the world that Caspar was the son of the Grand-duchess Stephanie, and the legitimate heir of the grand-duchy of Baden. A few years previously, the Emperor William had induced the grand-duke, his son-in-law, to shut the mouths of calumniators by publishing some documents which were preserved in the archives at Carlsruhe. The anonymous author, however, pretended to have derived his materials from important papers left by a person in a very high position, who was no other than the Grand-duchess Stephanie herself. Strong in such testimony, he had undertaken to throw light upon a long-kept secret and into the mysteries of a dark and iniquitous intrigue.

The anonymous author knew how to write and how to tell a story, and we read his book with as much interest as caution. The court of Ratisbon, trying the case, adjudicated concerning the author and his story that the famous pamphlet had been compiled from previous documents which were destitute of all authority, and that it swarmed with inexact, false, and, more than once, wild allegations. The publisher, who appealed from the judgment, was condemned to pay costs, and forced to withdraw the book from the market. A full and serious history of the pretended idiot has just been published by Herr Antonius von der Linde, in two rather overlarge octavo vulumes. Although it