He had seen many things and places, and
had stowed them all away in a shrewd
intellect and vigorous memory.
Friedrich Gerstacker, German novelist and traveler, and son of a famous opera singer, was born May 10, 1816, in Hamburg, and died May 31, 1872, in Braunschweig. He attended the schools in Braunschweig and the Nikolai school in Leipzig. In 1837 he went as a cabin boy to New York, and then wandered through most of the central and western states of the Union as hunter and trapper. Of these years, he himself wrote:(1)
Having come to North America comparatively a youngster, unable to speak the language, I was obliged to take up any work I could get, to make my living for I felt too proud to write back to Germany for money —and I was, therefore, first fireman and deckhand, then cook, on board the "Mississippi" and "Arkansas" steamers; set up cordwood in Tennessee, and worked at the silversmith business in Cincinnati; farmed Missouri; was bar-keeper and finally hotel-keeper in Louisiana; stock-keeper for a while in Arkansas; and after having become familiar with the language and habits, hunted four years in the backwoods of Arkansas, principally in the Fourche la Fave and Ozark Mountains, and White and St. Francis River swamps, for bear, deer, and turkeys. So that I led a wild life in a wild country, and got acquainted there with all the best and also the worst characters in the Union.
In 1843 he returned to Germany and devoted himself to literary pursuits. His "Streif- und Jagdzuge durch die Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika" appeared in two volumes in 1844. His first novel, "Die Regulatoren in Arkansas," appeared in three volumes in 1845, and "Die beiden Straflinge" in 1857. The latter obtained its local color of Australia from Gerstacker's visit to that country during his tour around the world in 1849 to 1852 an unusual event in those days. On this trip he visited Argentina, rode across that country and Chile, and then embarked for California during the gold rush. He then visited the South Sea Isands, Tahiti, Maiao, Emao, Australia, and Java. This trip is described in the book quoted above. On his return to Germany, he continued to write, and other novels and books of travel, many of which have been translated into English and other languages, appeared in rapid succession. In 1860-61 he again went to South America, and in 1862 he accompanied Duke Ernst von Koburg to Egypt and Abyssinia. In 1867-68 he went to Mexico, the West Indies, Ecuador, Venezuela, and a second time to the United States.
Gerstacker's books of travel are not of the guidebook type so common in his day, but are personal and entertaining, and forerunners of the modern type. He is of interest to Beadle collectors on account of my discovery that most if not all of the novels claimed for Francis Johnson are actually unabridged translations of his books, published without credit to the true author. † It is quite possible that Beadle purposely substituted the name of the translator for that of the author because the novels had not long previously been issued by another publisher and Beadle may have thought it good policy. In those days authors did not count for much.
Gerstacker's tales appeared for the first time among the Beadle publications in four series in the American Tales; in the other "libraries" they were reprinted from these. I have found that "Alapaha," "Border Bandits," and "Assowaum" together (67, 68, and American Tales, no. 69) are all parts and a direct translation of "Die Regulatoren in Arkansas," an American edition of which was published by Dick & Fitzgerald in New York about 1870. I also found that "The Bush Ranger" and "The Outlaw Hunter" (74 and American Tales, no. 75) are almost literal translations of Gerstacker's "Die beiden Straflinge."
The connection of Gerstacker with the other two series has not been fixed as definitely as the preceding by direct comparison with his novels in German, †although it seems to be confirmed by the following facts. In 1862, Dick and Fitzgerald, who had published Gerstacker's "Regulators of Arkansas," issued "Steel Arm; or, The Robbers and Regulators of California" and its sequel "Big Goliath; or, The Terror of the Mines." "Steel Arm" carries on the title page the statement that it is "By the author of 'The Regulators of Arkansas,' †'Rawson the Renegade,' 'Bill Johnson or The Outlaws of Arkansas,' 'Red Scout,' 'Red Jack,' etc." A comparison of Dick & Fitzgerald's edition of "Steel Arm" with Beadle's American Tales No. 64 and its sequel No. 65, entitled "The Gold Guide; or Steel Arm the Regulator" and "The Death Track," shows that they are identical. No author's name is given on the title pages in the American Tales, but when the stories were reprinted in Beadle's Dime Library Nos. 25 and 26, they were said to be by Francis Johnson. If we accept the statement on the title page of Dick & Fitzgerald's edition that "Steel Arm" is by the author of "The Regulators of Arkansas," one of Gerstacker's tales, then he also is the author of "Steel Arm.", †unless, of course, the publishers' by-line had reference to the translator and not to the author. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any original Gerstacker tale in German bearing a title similar to "Steel Arm; or, The Regulators of California," but I have not had access to a complete set of his novels. Until actual comparison is made, the authorship must be considered only tentatively established. †There is, however, the possibility that "Steel Arm" may be a translation of Stanislaus Grabowski's "Die Regulatoren von San Francisco," published in Berlin about 1862. I have not been able to compare the two stories, although the California State Library was kind enough to send me a photostat of the title and first page. The beginning of the German book and the characters appearing in it (Eliza Halliday, Brother Henry, Donna Theresa de Espeira, Richard, and John Martinez Solano) differ from those in "Steel Arm" (Louis Ribonne, Paddy Shanty, Enrique Mundiaz, Vandelles, John Cradle, the Goliaths, Luke Kerman, Rosina and Pepe Nieto). However, I have found other Beadle reprints with altered opening lines and with the names of the actors changed, therefore "Die Regulatoren" and "Steel Arm" cannot definitely be said to be different until the complete stories have been compared, which I have as yet been unable to do.
The fourth series of Francis Johnson's tales embraces American Tales Nos. 86, 80, 81, 82, and 83. The first tale of the sequence (Ameican Tales, no. 86) is entitled "Pepe, the Scout." But "The Gold Guide" (Ameican Tales, no. 64) of the third series, just mentioned, carries on its title page the statement that it is "by the author of 'Pepe, the Scout'," and if that is true, then naturally the remainder of the fourth series must be by the same author. If, therefore, "The Gold Guide" and its continuations (Ameican Tales, no. 64-65) are †accepted as by either Gerstacker or Grabowski, 'Pepe' and its continuation must also be by the same writer.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the novel was originally German for the first part of "Pepe" was apparently sent in for publication from a rough literal translation and was not revised as were the later parts. In a half dozen pages selected at random, the following almost literal translations of idiomatic German occur.
The commander did not know what to begin with the little boy.
was er mit dem Knaben an fangen sollte.
We will now say already that he tried to guess. . . .
It is true then that you once already have traversed this region.
dass Sie schon einmal
The encampment was established in a distance of a few hours
einige Stunden entfernt
The horse of the senator acted alike (meaning "in a similar manner")
benahm sich in ahnliche Weise
Have you seen it with me perhaps formerly already?
vielleicht schon fruher gesehen?
I shall tell you this evening yet
noch heute Abend
They appear to know each other since a long while.
Since the authorship of the third and fourth series mentioned above †is uncertain and may be either Gerstacker or Grabowski, for convenience they are temporarily listed with the novels of the former.
REFERENCES: Anselm Salzer, lllustrierte Geschichte der deutschen Literatur van den altesten Zeitcn his zur Gegenwart, III, 1773—74, with portrait; Heinrich Kurz, Geschichte der neuesten deutschen Literafur von 1830 his auf die Gegenwart, 781-84, with portrait; Köln. Zeitung, June 1, 1872; Myers, Konversations Lexicon, VII. See also Gerstacker's own books of travel.
American Tales. Nos. 64, 65, 67, 68, 69, 74, 75, 80, 81,
82, 83, 86
Starr's American Novels. Nos. 163, 164, 168, 169, 170, 177, 178, 179, 180, 189, 190
Starr's New York Library. Nos. 25, 26
Dime Library. Nos. 25, 26, 123, 124, 135, 136, 138
SPECIMEN OF F. GERSTACKER'S STYLE
"Alapaha, the Squaw; or, The Renegades of the Border." American Tales No. 67, pp. 63-66.
"Gentlemen, this is the land to live in—there is nothing like Arkansas!"
"Well, well, Mr. Barker," said Harper, whose reserve began to thaw, as he watched these preparations for his favorite beverage; "well, well, I don't know—Missouri is not to be despised; I have lived there a good many years and—"
"Missouri!" cried Barker, in astonishment. "Missouri?" God help us! and you compare that country with Arkansas?"
"Why, it borders close enough upon it."
"Borders? It is just as if the Almighty had taken his finger and drawn a line between the two States, that the one should be fruitful and the other unfruitful. Missouri! why, everything stops there. How long have you really lived in Arkansas?"
"About six weeks."
"Ah, that alters the case! then you can't know any better; why, the land is so rich here, sir, that when we want to make candles, all we have to do is to dip the wicks in mud-puddles—they burn as good as wax. When a man in Arkansas tills his field with care and attention, he can count upon its yielding a hundred bushels to the acre."
"That's a great crop."
"Great! it's nothing at all—when he takes no trouble with his land and lets the corn grow up as it will, he is sure of seventy-five bushels; and when he don't plant any, why—why, he'll get fifty—you can't kill the land."
Harper moved uneasily upon the chest on which he was seated, while Roberts and Curtis cast stolen glances at each other.
"And what is a great advantage besides," continued Barker, "he need never plant till July, the corn grows so wonderfully fast. Only think, last year it tore the beans I had planted between the hills clean out of the ground by the roots; and the pumpkins—four men couldn't reach around one of them."
"Astonishing country!" said Harper; "but I suppose then, that everything must be on a large scale here?"
"Everything on a large scale!" said Barker, now completely astride his hobby-horse, which was boasting of the land in which he lived; "everything on a large scale! I should think so; in the hot summer days the mosquitoes fly so thick that they often stick together with sweat, and fall to the ground in lumps; I have watched the wood ticks with my own eyes, and seen them rise up on their fore-legs out of a piece of wood, and listen to the cowbells, and the fleas go regularly every evening to drink in the river, like other cattle. And then, what rivers we have—the Lord be good to us—they push the sea away, miles and miles from the land when they run into it."
"But they don't run into it.!" hinted Harper.
"Don't run into it? What becomes of them then?" cried Barker, indignantly. "Do they sweat away, eh? What does the Petit-Jean run into?"
"Into the Arkansas."
"Well, and the Arkansas?"
"Into the Mississippi."
"And the Mississippi?"
"Into the gulf of Mexico."
"As if that wasn't all one and the same thing. Well, now take the southern part of Missouri—have any of you ever been in the southern part of Missouri?"
"All of us, probably," replied Roberts.
"As far as Eleven Point river? Gentlemen, I don't wish to exaggerate, but it is so rocky there that a man is obliged to lift the sheep, one by one, by the hind legs, that they may get at the little grass that grows between the sharp stones, and the wolves are so thin and weak that when they want to howl they have to lean against a tree. You see now the difference between Missouri and Arkansas. What did we do, for example, in winter, when we had nothing for the poor cattle to eat. Well, guess."
"Let them run wild in the wood," replied Curtis.
"What use would that have been, I should like to know? The ground was so dry that even the bark wouldn't grow on the trees and bushes. No, I hit upon a very different plan. You know Tom, Roberts—the fellow who afterwards had to take a hasty trip to Texas—tall Tom—you must remember him—he was so tall that he had to kneel down when he wanted to scratch his head. Well, he had formerly been a mechanic, I believe, in Philadelphia, and had brought a whole lot of tools and things with him; I got him to make me a number of large green spectacles; I put them on the cows, and gave 'em shavings to eat, and I hope I may be shot, if they didn't take them for grass and grow fat."
"Heaven help us!" cried Harper.
"Here we have it better," continued Barker, in delight; "here we sit, as it were, in clover, and as for the hunting—"
"Holla!" cried Harper, interrupting him; "nothing can beat Missouri in that—the hunting can't be better here."
"Better?" rejoined Barker, laughing scornfully; "better? Why, when a bear here has only three inches of fat upon his back, we call him lean—the deer—"
"We catch them by the legs," cried Roberts. Barker glanced at him in astonishment, while Harper's face wore an expression of great self-complacency.
"Well, Roberts, you must own it yourself," continued Barker; "but Betsy, the water's boiling; now brew the drink, my girl; you know how we like it—you must own it yourself, Roberts, that no one here comes up to me in hunting; I don't shoot small game any more, I have my own way of taking them."
"Like the boys with us," said Harper, "they catch rabbits in traps."
"Traps!" cried Barker, scornfully; "there's no need of traps for that. Come to Arkansas when you want to learn anything. When a trifle of snow covers the ground, I go a bit into the woods, just out of sight of the house."
"That isn't very far," hinted Curtis.
"Well, there I stick little pieces of red beets in the snow, and sprinkle them over with snuff; and the next morning I find the rabbits lying dead near them."
"Do they eat the snuff?" asked the peddler, in astonishment.
"Eat it? No, they smell it, and then sneeze so hard that they break their necks."
"Talking of breaking necks," said Harper, "puts me in mind how I served an owl lately. The rascal had carried off a chicken from me, three nights in succession, and I could never get a shot at the fellow. At last, on the fourth day—it was raining a little—the owl came flying to the house early in the morning; I knew it by the fluttering and cackling of the hens. I caught up my rifle, ran out, and soon found the bird, sitting upon a small, bushy hickory tree. I could only see its head, and as I didn't want to kill it outright, but only to make a little sport for the dogs, I walked around the tree in a circle, looking for a convenient place to shoot. But the leaves were as thick on one side as on the other, and the owl kept staring at me with its large, rolling, fiery eyes. I had gone three times around the tree, with my rifle to my shoulder, when all at once I heard a rustling in the branches, and down fell the owl. In following me around with its eyes, it had twisted its own neck off."
"That's no trick," said Barker, to whom it did not once occur to doubt the truth of this narrative. "When I was a boy, I could beat a wild turkey running; and when they flew, I was sure of them, if they didn't rise too high."
"As for running," said Harper, "I wish you could have seen my brother when he was after partridges."
"You won't pretend to tell us that he caught partridges on the wing!" cried Barker, starting from his seat in dismay.
"No," replied Harper, "not quite, but I'm blest if, at every jump he didn't pull a handful of feathers out of their tails."
"Gentlemen, here comes the stew," cried Roberts. . . . The conversation was interrupted for a moment, and the men resigned themselves entirely to the enjoyment of the drink. . . .
"I was once most monstrously in love," said Barker, simpering. "It was with a girl from the city—St. Louis. I was then trading with the Osages up toward the Missouri and the Yellowstone river, and I 'camped about three miles to the westward of the place. Would you believe it? every three days I received a large letter brimful of love and passion, I suppose; it was a pity only that I couldn't read them; and the Indians that I lived with didn't know the difference between the inside of a letter and the out. But they must have been piping hot, for I tied 'em together, and put them, as I went out, into a leather purse, and when I came home, and opened it again, I found nothing but ashes."
"But, good people, I should think it was time to go to bed," said the peddler, yawning. . . .
"One moment!" cried Harper, with rather a heavy tongue. "Talking of love, puts me in mind of a story about my brother, when he was quite a lad. You ought to have known him—a d—l of a fellow—but eighteen years old, and had promised marriage to three different girls. He paid a visit once to a Quaker in Philadelphia, and, singular enough, it happened to be the brother of one of the girls. The fellow recognized him, but was mighty civil, and invited him to stay and eat dinner; after dinner he got up, pretending to have business, and left the house to fetch a constable, and have my brother arrested. But what do you think he found when he returned home?"
"Well, I suppose your brother had cleared out."
"Yes, but not alone; he had gone off with the Quaker's wife!"
Title of the original German by Friedrich Gerstacker: Die Regulatoren in Arkansas.
† Correction made as per Volume 3.
|1||F. Gerstacker, Narrative of a Journey Round the World, New York, 1854, 497-98.|