Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
826
CHAMKANNI—CHAMOIS

His family were shortly afterwards permitted to return to France; he, however, remained behind and continued his career in the army. He had but little education, but now sought distraction from the soulless routine of the Prussian military service in assiduous study. In collaboration with Varnhagen von Ense, he founded in 1803 the Berliner Musenalmanach, in which his first verses appeared. The enterprise was a failure, and, interrupted by the war, it came to an end in 1806. It brought him, however, to the notice of many of the literary celebrities of the day and established his reputation as a rising poet. He had become lieutenant in 1801, and in 1805 accompanied his regiment to Hameln, where he shared in the humiliations following the treasonable capitulation of that fortress in the ensuing year. Placed on parole he went to France, where he found that both his parents were dead; and, returning to Berlin in the autumn of 1807, he obtained his release from the service early in the following year. Homeless and without a profession, disillusioned and despondent, he lived in Berlin until 1810, when, through the services of an old friend of the family, he was offered a professorship at the lycée at Napoléonville in La Vendée. He set out to take up the post, but drawn into the charmed circle of Madame de Staël, followed her in her exile to Coppet in Switzerland, where, devoting himself to botanical research, he remained nearly two years. In 1812 he returned to Berlin, where he continued his scientific studies. In the summer of the eventful year, 1813, he wrote the prose narrative Peter Schlemihl, the man who sold his shadow. This, the most famous of all his works, has been translated into most European languages (English by W. Howitt). It was written partly to divert his own thoughts and partly to amuse the children of his friend Hitzig. In 1815 Chamisso was appointed botanist to the Russian ship “Rurik,” which Otto von Kotzebue (son of August von Kotzebue) commanded on a scientific voyage round the world. His diary of the expedition (Tagebuch, 1821) affords some interesting glimpses of England and English life. On his return in 1818 he was made custodian of the botanical gardens in Berlin, and was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences, and in 1820 he married. Chamisso’s travels and scientific researches restrained for a while the full development of his poetical talent, and it was not until his forty-eighth year that he turned again to literature. In 1829, in collaboration with Gustav Schwab, and from 1832 in conjunction with Franz von Gaudy, he brought out the Deutsche Musenalmanach, in which his later poems were mainly published. He died on the 21st of August 1838.

As a scientist Chamisso has not left much mark, although his Bemerkungen und Ansichten, published in an incomplete form in O. von Kotzebue’s Entdeckungsreise (Weimar, 1821) and more completely in Chamisso’s Gesammelte Werke (1836), and the botanical work, Übersicht der nutzbarsten und schädlichsten Gewächse in Norddeutschland (1829) are esteemed for their careful treatment of the subjects with which they deal. As a poet Chamisso’s reputation stands high, Frauen Liebe und Leben (1830), a cycle of lyrical poems, which was set to music by Schumann, being particularly famous. Noteworthy are also Schloss Boncourt and Salas y Gomez. In estimating his success as a writer, it should not be forgotten that he was cut off from his native speech and from his natural current of thought and feeling. He often deals with gloomy and sometimes with ghastly and repulsive subjects; and even in his lighter and gayer productions there is an undertone of sadness or of satire. In the lyrical expression of the domestic emotions he displays a fine felicity, and he knew how to treat with true feeling a tale of love or vengeance. Die Löwenbraut may be taken as a sample of his weird and powerful simplicity; and Vergeltung is remarkable for a pitiless precision of treatment.

The first collected edition of Chamisso’s works was edited by J. E. Hitzig, 6 vols. (1836); 6th edition (1874); there are also excellent editions by M. Koch (1883) and O. F. Walzel (1892). On Chamisso’s life see J. E. Hitzig, “Leben und Briefe von Adelbert yon Chamisso” (in the Gesammelte Werke); K. Fulda, Chamisso und seine Zeit (1881); G. Hofmeister, Adelbert von Chamisso (1884); and, for the scientific side of Chamisso’s life, E. du Bois-Raymond, Adelbert von Chamisso als Naturforscher (1889).


CHAMKANNI, a small Pathan tribe on the Kohat border of the North-West Province of India. They inhabit the western part of the Kurmana Valley in the Orakzai portion of Tirah, but are supposed to be a distinct race. They took part in the frontier risings of 1897, and during the Tirah expedition of that year a brigade under General Gaselee was sent to punish them.


CHAMOIS, the Franco-Swiss name of an Alpine ruminant known in the German cantons as Gemse, and to naturalists as Rupicapra tragus or R. rupicapra tragus. It is the only species of its genus, and typifies a subfamily, Rupicaprinae, of hollow-horned ruminants in some degree intermediate between antelopes and goats (see Antelope). About equal in height to a roebuck, and with a short black tail, the chamois is readily distinguishable from all other ruminants by its vertical, backwardly-hooked, black horns, which are common to males and females, although smaller in the latter. Apart from black and white face-markings, and the black tail and dorsal stripe, the prevailing colour of the Alpine chamois is chestnut brown in summer, but lighter and greyer in winter. In the Pyrenees the species is represented by a small race locally known as the izard; a very brightly-coloured form, R.t. picta, inhabits the Apennines; the Carpathian chamois is very dark-coloured, and the one from the Caucasus is the representative of yet another race. A thick under-fur is developed in the winter-coat, as in all other ruminants dwelling at high altitudes. Chamois are gregarious, living in herds of 15 or 20, and feeding generally in the morning or evening. The old males, however, live alone except in the rutting season, which occurs in October, when they join the herds, driving off the younger bucks, and engaging in fierce contests with each other, that often end fatally for one at least of the combatants. The period of gestation is twenty weeks, when the female, beneath the shelter generally of a projecting rock, produces one and sometimes two young. In summer they ascend to the limits of perpetual snow, being only exceeded in the loftiness of their haunts by the ibex; and during that season they show their intolerance of heat by choosing such browsing-grounds as have a northern exposure. In winter they descend to the wooded districts that immediately succeed the region of glaciers, and it is there only they can be successfully hunted. Chamois are exceedingly shy; and their senses, especially those of sight and smell, very acute. The herd never feeds without having a sentinel posted on some prominence to give notice of the approach of danger; which is done by stamping on the ground with the forefeet, and uttering a shrill whistling note, thus putting the entire herd on the alert. No sooner is the object of alarm scented or seen than each one seeks safety in the most inaccessible situations, which are often reached by a series of astounding leaps over crevasses, up the faces of seemingly perpendicular rocks, or down the sides of equally precipitous chasms. The chamois will not hesitate, it is said, thus to leap down 20 or even 30 ft., and this it effects with apparent ease by throwing itself forward diagonally and striking its feet several times in its descent against the face of the rock. Chamois-shooting is most successfully pursued when a number of hunters form a circle round a favourite feeding ground, which they gradually narrow; the animals, scenting the hunters to windward, fly in the opposite direction, only to encounter those coming from leeward. Chamois-hunting, in spite of, or perhaps owing to the great danger attending it, has always been a favourite pursuit among the hardy mountaineers of Switzerland and Tirol, as well as of the amateur sportsmen of all countries, with the result that the animal is now comparatively rare in many districts where it was formerly common. Chamois feed in summer on mountain-herbs and flowers, and in winter chiefly on the young shoots and buds of fir and pine trees. They are particularly fond of salt, and in the Alps sandstone rocks containing a saline impregnation are often met with hollowed by the constant licking of these creatures. The skin of the chamois is very soft; made into leather it was the original shammy, which is now made, however, from the skins of many other animals. The flesh is prized as venison.  (R. L.*)