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Memoirs and Travels of
Count de Benyowsky, 1898

 

 

Count de Benyowsky

Maurit. August. Comes De Benyowsky.
Frontispiece Portrait

 
Count de Benyowsky
Nicholson, William (Translator)
Oliver, Pasfield (Editor):
The Memoirs and Travels of Mauritius Augustus Count de Benyowsky, in Siberia, Kamchatka, Japan, the Liukiu Islands and Formosa, From the Translation of the Original Manuscript (1741-1771), By William Nicholson, F.R.S., 1790, London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1898, the Adventure Series, No. 8., pictorial cloth, frontispiece (cameo portrait of Count Benyowsky), 6 wood cut full page plates, 1 foldout map, large 12mo (5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in), 399 pp. This book is a reprint of an 1790 publication translating Count de Benyowsky's memoir/journals into English. The book relates Count Benyowsky's (a Hungarian Count) military operations in Poland, his capture by the Russians and exile to Siberia (Kamchatka), his escape and subsequent voyage in a commandeered a Russian naval vessel through the northern Pacific Ocean with calls at Kurile and Aleutian Islands, Alaska, Japan, Liukiu (Okinawa), Formosa and Canton, with an account of the French settlement he was appointed to form on Madagascar.

The call in Liukiu (Ryukyu Islands). The title of the book indicates a call in the Liukiu Islands and the editor equates Liukiu to the name "Ligueio". The actual text never uses that term Liukiu. The Count departed Tacasim (Deishima) near Nanghasaki (Nagasaki) on August 14, 1771 and arrived at "Usmay Ligon" on the 15th. He referred to this island as a part of the "Liqueio Islands." The Dutch in the 16th century referred to Okinawa as "Lequeo Minore" and the Anami (Amami) Islands as "Lequeio mggre." Since the island was so close to Japan it appears that the call was in the Amami Islands which were at that time under the authority of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Benyowsky was so impressed with the islands that he signed a "Treaty" providing:

'That I, Mauritius Augustus de Benyowsky, do oblige myself, and do promise, upon my faith as a Christian, to return to this island, as soon as possible, with a society of virtuous good, and just men, to dwell upon this island, and to adopt the manners and usages, and laws of the inhabitants.'
Benyowsky departed Usmay Ligon on August 20 arriving in Formosa on the 26th.

The editor (Oliver, Pasfield) was very skeptical of the Benyowsky memoirs. He asserted that "The Memoirs open with a lie." (at page 30) and then went into a several page analysis discrediting the memoirs and concluded that "He had seven years to compose his romantic and fictitious memoirs and to interweave the false with the true events of his journal, and therefrom produce a connected and detailed account of all his doings." (at page 51) Obviously the editor believed that major portions of the memoirs were exaggerations or outright fabrications. Oliver believed that the Ryukyu Island referred to was the Miaco Shima Islands (Miyako Islands). However, I don't find the editor's conclusion consistent with the sailing times from Japan (1 day) to the island and the Island to Formosa (6 days) or the names used by Benyowsky.

Listing of Chapters (summarized heading).

    Intoduction
    Troubles in Poland
  1. Introduction, the Count in Siberia
  2. Departure from Tomszky
  3. Village of Judoma
  4. Arrival at Kamechatka
  5. The Count forms an intimacy with Mr. Crustiew
  6. The Count enters upon his office as language master
  7. The Society of exiles
  8. The Society of exiles meet on business relative to escape
  9. Exiles narrowly escape poisioning on New Year's day
  10. The Count constructs a musical instrument of Miss Aphanasia
  11. Attachment of exiles to the Count
  12. Preparations for the marriage
  13. A journal of an excursion of the Governor with the Count
  14. Narrative of the proceedings of the exiles resumed
  15. Excape of the exiles from slavery
  16. Endeavor to procure a vessel
  17. Journey to Lopattka - return to Bolsha
  18. Dangerous disturbance among the exiles
  19. Count negotiates with the captain of a vessel
  20. Preparations for departure
  21. Count's exertions to prevent the consequenses of discovery
  22. Count's exertions continued
  23. Proceedings relative to projected escape
  24. Government of Kamchatka action on discovery of Count's plans
  25. Government sends military to take Count prisioner
  26. Count takes fort and Government forces surrender
  27. Count and party embark in the St. Peter and St. Paul
  28. Continuation of Memoirs (the sea voyage to Canton)
    [This chapter is from page 252 to 392]
Listing of Illustrations.
  1. Medallion Portrait of Count de Benyowsky (frontispiece)
  2. House of the Benyowsky Family at Verbowa
  3. A Polish Gentleman, by Tezel
  4. A Polish Gentleman in Winter Dress of the Period
  5. A Russian Man and Sledge
  6. Travelling in Winter Kamchatka
  7. Japanese Astronomers (Facsimile from Native drawing)
Map. Kamchatka and Behring's Sea, wthe Track of Benyowsky

While not part of the book, it is noted that subsequent to the events discussed in this book, in 1779 Benyowsky accompanied his close friend Kazimir (Casimir) Pulaski to America and offered his services in the American Revolution. He was with General Pulaski at the Savannah battle, where Pulaski was killed. Benyowsky was killed in Malagasy in 1786 and obviously never carried through with his "Liqueio Islands" treaty of 15 years earlier.

Other Editions:

1790, London (Rare).
1791, Paris, 2 volumes, 466 pp and 486 pp. Retail: $1200.
1904, London, Keegan Paul, Trench, Trubne, 2 plates, 636 pp. Retail: $100.

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