NEWS - All Facts and Myths welcome!
An evening of Benyovszky
The good people of the British Czech and Slovak Association in London are holding an event on the 26th February 2020, to take a look at Moric Benyovszky. To that end, they have invited me to give a talk on the man. The event is open to all comers, and will be held in the rather grand Slovak Embassy in the heart of Kensington.
Full details are available on the BCSA's website, which you can reach by clicking here.
The Star Spangled Banner, anyone?
I am grateful to Mark Pruett, a descendant of the Benyovszky family on his mother's side, for sending me an advert for a performance of the Benyovszky play (probably Benjamin Thomson's translation of Kotzebue's work) in Baltimore in 1814. To see the advert click here. What is significant about this gala performance is that it also included the first public performance of a 'much-admired NEW SONG', The Star-Spangled Banner... Good old Benyovszky!
Australian Convicts Escape!
Nick Russell has been investigating the escape of a collection of convicts from Tasmania in 1829. By a happy coincidence, the 'pirate' captain William Swallow and his fellow-escapees on the brig 'Cyprus' ended up on much the same stretch of coast as did Benyovszky and his comrades. Indeed, they further sailed to Canton/Macao in the wake of the St Peter. Although Nick has yet to find hard evidence, he has suggested in correspondence that Captain Swallow made use of Benyovszky's Memoirs as his guide on where to find food and shelter in Japan. Would that it turned out to be true!
You can read all about it here in a variety of formats, or here in A4 format.
In July of 2017, the English-language Wikipedia article on Benyovszky underwent a major revamp, to introduce (a) some proper facts and (b) new material. All went quite well for a few days and then anonymous edits began to appear on the article. Where the original editor (OK: it was me) had used the word 'Hungarian' to describe Benyovszky's nationality (an error of judgement in retrospect!), that adjective was disappearing and being replaced by 'Slovak' or 'Polish' or reverting back to 'Hungarian', on almost a nightly basis. At first, I made the mistake of trying to revert to the original text, and made it quite clear that the word referred to the 18th century Kingdom of Hungary, and not to the present-day nation-state. I even tried pointing out that 'Slovakia' did not actually exist in the 18th century. And that Benyovszky in any case spent the best part of his life in French employment.
Eventually I gave up, and let nature take its course, while puzzling to myself why the Poles, the Hungarians and the Slovaks were fighting over a fraudster. Doubtless, the Wikipedia controversy will continue to rumble on.
It is a blessing that the competing editors never really got past the initial paragraph of the article...
New biography published
A new biography of Benyovszky has now been published. I am pleased to be the author (Andy Drummond) and the book's title is The Intriguing Life and Ignominious Death of Maurice Benyovszky. It appears in paperback form - with a satisfying old map on the cover (Jacques-Nicolas Bellin's map of the Kuril Islands, 1750); or in hardback, without. The publisher is Routledge, and you can order the book directly from them, or hope and pray that a local bookshop can get you a copy; or doubtless visit Amazon. If you buy from Routledge, be aware that, until further notice, you can get a 20% discount on an on-line order - click here to see further details.