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The Book of Gallant Vagabonds Author: Henry Beston

 The Book of Gallant Vagabonds  Author: Henry Beston


FOREWORD
“The wide seas and the mountains called to him,
And grey dawn saw his camp-fires in the rain.”
There are times when everyone wants to be a vagabond, and go down the road to adventure, strange peoples, the mountains, and the sea. The bonds of convention, however, are many and strong, and only a few ever break them and go.

In this book I have gathered together the strange and romantic lives of actual wanderers who did what so many have wished to do; here are some who gave up all to go and see the world. The booming of temple gongs over the rice fields sounded in their ears, they tasted strange food cooked on charcoal fires in the twilight quiet of midocean isles, they knew the mountain wind keen with the smell of snow, the mystery of roads along great rivers, and the broad path of ships on lonely seas. Whatever was to be seen, they went to see;[10] they did things the world thought could not be done.

Life is a kind of book which is put into our hands with many pages still uncut; some are content with the open leaves, others cut a few pages, the vagabond reads the whole book if he can.

I have called these wanderers “Gallant Vagabonds” to separate them from both the professional travellers and the vagabond ne’er-do-wells. The gallant vagabond is not the man with the sun helmet and the file of native bearers; nor is he the wastrel who drifts down-stream and sees the world as he goes; the real prince of vagabonds is the wayfarer with scarce a penny in his pocket who fights his way upstream to see where the river rises, and crosses the dark mountains to find the fabled town. His curiosity is never purely geographical, it lies in the whole fantastic mystery of life.

The true gallant vagabond is one of the heroes of humanity, and history owes him many of her great discoveries, many of her most spirited and romantic episodes.

Here you will find, gathered in their own vagabond company, John Ledyard the runaway college sophomore who thought of walking round the[11] world, Belzoni the monk who became an acrobat and then an archæologist, Edward John Trelawny, the deserter, pirate, and country gentleman who came so mysteriously into the life of Shelley; Thomas Morton, the jovial Elizabethan who scandalized the New England Puritans with a Mayday revel, Arthur Rimbaud the poet who became an African trader, and James Bruce the sturdy Scot who rose to be a great lord in Abyssinia. The accounts are authentic, and if they seem like fiction, the reader must call to mind the old adage about the strangeness of the truth.

I wish to thank Mr. John Farrar, Editor of The Bookman, for the kindest of help and encouragement, and I welcome this same opportunity to thank Mr. Warren Butler of Salem, Massachusetts, who found me the old print of the ship Bonetta.

H. B.

New York City.

[12]

[13]

CONTENTS
CHAPTER PAGE
One JOHN LEDYARD 19
Two BELZONI 57
Three EDWARD JOHN TRELAWNY 95
Four THOMAS MORTON OF MERRY-MOUNT 137
Five JAMES BRUCE 175
Six ARTHUR RIMBAUD 211
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ILLUSTRATIONS
THE HARBOR OF LEGHORN IN SHELLEY’S DAY SHOWING THE AMERICAN SHIP BONETTA OF SALEM LEAVING PORT Frontispiece
PAGE
JOHN LEDYARD 21
BELZONI 59
TRELAWNY AS THE OLD SEAMAN IN SIR JOHN E. MILLAIS’S PAINTING THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE 97
JAMES BRUCE 177
ARTHUR RIMBAUD 213

FOOTNOTES
[1]Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island.

[2]A type of Russian carriage.

[3]Tip money.

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