Strauss, Gustave Louis Maurice (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 55
Strauss, Gustave Louis Maurice

by Edward Irving Carlyle

STRAUSS, GUSTAVE LOUIS MAURICE (1807?–1887), miscellaneous writer, was born at Trois Rivières in Lower Canada about 1807. Although a British subject, he asserts that he had ‘a strange mixture of Italian, French, German, and Sarmatian blood’ in his veins. In 1812 his father removed to Europe, and about 1816 settled at Linden, near Hanover. Gustave was educated at the Klosterschule in Magdeburg, at the university of Berlin (where he took the degree of doctor of philosophy), and at the Montpellier school of medicine. In 1832 he visited Great Britain in the company of Legros, a wealthy Marseillais, who wished to inspect the industrial establishments of the country. He returned to Germany in 1833 to share in the liberal demonstrations against the government, and took part in the rising of the students at Frankfort-on-the-Maine on 3 April. On its suppression he succeeded in escaping to France, but the Prussian government sequestrated his property, which was not returned to him until 1840. In 1833 he went to Algiers as assistant surgeon to the French army. At first he was attached to the foreign legion, but in 1834 his connection with it was severed. After some years' service his health broke down, and he returned to France, only to be banished in 1839 for supposed complicity in a revolutionary plot. He then came to London, where he turned his hand to a variety of callings, including those of author, linguist, chemist, politician, cook, journalist, tutor, dramatist, and surgeon. He was well known in London as ‘the Old Bohemian,’ and was one of the founders of the Savage Club in 1857.

In 1865 he published ‘The Old Ledger: a Novel,’ which was described by the ‘Athenæum’ as ‘vulgar, profane, and indelicate.’ In consequence he brought an action against that journal at the Kingston assizes, which was settled by mutual consent. The ‘Athenæum,’ however, justified the original criticism on 7 April 1866, and Strauss brought a second action. In this his plea for free literary expression was met by a demand for equal latitude in criticism. The defendants' contention was supported by Lord-chief-justice Cockburn, and the jury returned a verdict in their favour.

In later life his circumstances became straitened, and through Mr. Gladstone's intervention he received a bounty from the civil list. In 1879 he was admitted into the Charterhouse, but after a short residence he applied for an outdoor pension, which was granted by the governors. Strauss died unmarried, on 2 Sept. 1887, at Teddington.

Besides the novel mentioned and several unimportant translations, Strauss was the author of: 1. ‘The German Reader,’ London, 1852, 12mo. 2. ‘A German Grammar,’ London, 1852, 12mo. 3. ‘A French Grammar,’ London, 1853, 12mo. 4. ‘Moslem and Frank,’ London, 1854, 12mo. 5. ‘Mahometism: an Historical Sketch,’ 2nd edit. London, 1857, 12mo. 6. ‘Men who have made the new German Empire,’ London, 1875, 8vo. 7. ‘Reminiscences of an Old Bohemian,’ London, 1882, 8vo. 8. ‘Stories by an Old Bohemian,’ London, 1883, 8vo. 9. ‘Philosophy in the Kitchen,’ London, 1885, 8vo. 10. ‘Dishes and Drinks,’ London, 1887, 8vo. 11. ‘Emperor William: the Life of a great King and good Man,’ London, 1888, 8vo.

[Strauss's Works; Athenæum, 17 Sept. 1887; Times, 14 Sept. 1887; Sala's Life and Adventures, 1896, pp. 123–4, 223, 227.]

E. I. C.