Chris Waigl cwaigl at FREE.FR
Sun Aug 28 23:19:53 UTC 2005

Benjamin Zimmer posts a 1901 cite that links Münchhausen and bootstraps:

>I don't recall seeing anything from the 19th century linking Münchhausen
>to the bootstraps expression. The earliest allusion to Münchhausen I've
>found so far is from 1901:
>Daily Review (Decatur, Ill.), Dec. 7, 1901, p. 7/1
>Corn ... was under the lowest price in the opening range. Then it took a
>good grip on its boot~straps and lifted. Munchausen wasn't in it at all,
>for corn raised itself from bottom to the top of the day.
This is only 6 years before the Helen Zimmern's translation of
Nietzsche's _Beyond Good and Evil_ appeared in English. It has the
following passage:

The desire for "freedom of will" in the superlative, metaphysical sense,
such as still holds sway, unfortunately, in the minds of the
half-educated, the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility
for one's actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors,
chance, and society therefrom, involves nothing less than to be
precisely this CAUSA SUI, and, with more than Munchausen daring, to pull
oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the slough of nothingness.

>Chris Waigl has already posted on this. The story doesn't appear in
>Raspe's famous English translation of 1785, but it's in Bürger's
>retranslated German version published the following year.
As far as I've been able to tell, Raspe didn't translate the story into
English at all but was indeed the original author. He had been living in
England for some time by then, and indeed there are some quotes (by
Walpole, for example) that note the quality of his command of English.
There were two short tales that appeared in German, in a literary
magazine, before 1785, but it is speculated that Raspe was the author.

>Donna Richoux
>posted to alt.usage.english in 2002 about a later English version that
>includes the story.
> -----

>This reminded me that I recently got ahold of a second-hand copy of
>Erich Kastner's version of _Baron Munchhausen_ (J. Messner, 1957), which
>was translated into English, is generously illustrated, and would have
>been in the school libraries and public libraries of many of us growing
>up. (Kastner was well-known as the author of the German children's book,
>_Emil and the Detectives_.)
>The relevant passage, I think, is on p. 39, when the Baron, stuck in the
>mud with his horse, says "I pulled myself up out of the marsh by my own
>pigtail." This is illustrated with a black and white sketch on p. 36.
>It's the right idea, but no boots or bootstraps mentioned anywhere.
>I just searched through the Raspe edition of "The Surprising Adventures
>of Baron Munchausen" at the On-line books page, and cannot find anything
>resembling this anecdote there. Kastner may have gotten it from one of
>the old German editions.
This is very interesting -- what Donna Richoux quotes could be a
re-translation into English of Bürger's version.

The anecdote is in Bürger's 1786 free and augmented translation of
Raspe, which was taken to be the original version in Germany at the time
(end of chapter 4 of Bürger, which corresponds to chapter 5 in Raspe;
Bürger adds two short anecdotes about his horse, the second of which is
the one in question).

Chris Waigl

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