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Psalmanazar
Psalmanazar
440

profit them both. The first step was for Innes to publicly baptise Psalmanazar as a protestant. Thereupon Innes described the ceremony in a letter to Henry Compton [q. v.], bishop of London. To render the story of Psalmanazar's early life more plausible, Innes declared that the convert was a native, not of Japan, but of the neighbouring island of Formosa, of which he safely assumed that very few Englishmen had heard. Jesuits, Innes said, had abducted him from his native island, and had carried him to Avignon. There the young man had withstood all persuasions to become a Roman catholic, and the Jesuits, angered by his obstinacy, threatened him with the tortures of the inquisition. In order to escape persecution he fled to Germany, where he suffered the direst poverty. The bishop accepted the story without question, and bade Innes bring his convert to London. Psalmanazar's discharge from his regiment was easily effected, and at the end of 1703 he landed at Harwich.

In London Psalmanazar at once attracted popular interest. He presented Compton with a translation of the Church of England catechism into his invented language, which he now called 'Formosan.' He was voluble in Latin to Archbishop Tillotson. Not only did the bishops and clergy thenceforth regard him with compassion and set on foot a fund for his maintenance and further education, but scientific men were anxious to study his language and to learn something of so unfamiliar a land as Formosa. His assurance silenced suspicions of fraud. He made it a practice never to withdraw or modify any statement that he once made in public, and having committed himself to the assertion that Formosa was part of the empire of Japan (instead of China), and that its population was impossibly large, he steadfastly declined to entertain corrections. Father Fountenay, a Jesuit missionary to China, was at the moment in London, and readily perceived Psalmanazar's blunders. But Psalmanazar met his critic at a public meeting of the Royal Society (2 Feb. 1703-4), and, according to his own account, successfully rebutted Fountenay's censures. Sir Hans Sloane, the secretary of the Royal Society, invited the disputants to dine with him eight days later, and among the guests was the Earl of Pembroke, who became one of Psalmanazar's most generous patrons. 'He was now invited to every great table in the kingdom' (Gent. Mag. 1765, p. 78), and on all occasions he paraded his Formosan language, which was 'sufficiently original, copious, and regular to impose on men of very extensive learning' (Richardson, Languages of the East, p. 237). By impudent raillery he succeeded in turning the laugh against sceptics. When Bishop Burnet asked him for proofs that he came from Formosa, he replied that the bishop, if chance took him to Formosa, would be placed in an awkward dilemma when, on his declaring himself an Englishman, he was asked to prove the statement. 'You say you are an Englishman,' the Formosan, according to Psalmanazar, would retort ; 'you look as like a Dutchman as any that ever traded to Formosa' (Pylades and Corinna, by Richard Gwinnet and Elizabeth Thomas ; Gent. Mag. 1765, p. 78).

At the expense of Compton and his friends, Psalmanazar spent six months, apparently in 1704, at Oxford, where rooms were assigned him at Christ Church. The bishop hoped that he would there 'teach the Formosan language to a set of gentlemen, who were afterwards to go with him to convert these people to Christianity' (Memoirs, p. 161). He fascinated large assemblies of ladies and gentlemen at the university by detailed accounts of the human sacrifices which formed part (he said) of the Formosans' religious ritual. He thought it no sin, he told his hearers, to eat human flesh, but owned it was a little unmannerly. He made some learned researches at Oxford, and, according to Hearne, 'left behind him at Christ Church a book, in manuscript, wherein a distinct account was given of the consular and imperial coins, by himself' (Collections, i. 271).

To improve his position, Psalmanazar, at Innes's instigation, prepared a full account of what he alleged to be his early life and experiences. He wrote in Latin, and the main portion of his manuscript was translated by Mr. Oswald. It was completed in two months, and was issued before the end of 1704, with a dedication to Bishop Compton, as 'An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island subject to the Emperor of Japan . . . illustrated with several Cuts.' There was prefixed a long introduction, describing his reception in England, his travels, and his conversion to protestantism. He seized every opportunity of abusing the Jesuits, a policy which commended the work to English churchmen. In a later section the language, dress, religious beliefs, and political constitution of Formosa were set forth in detail. What was not due to his own imagination he borrowed from Varenius's 'Descriptio Regni Japoniæ et Siam' (Amsterdam, 1649) or Candidius's 'Voyages.' Though the book met with much success, Psalmanazar only received ten guineas for the first edition. A second edition, next year, brought