Imprisoned in a castle's dungeon from the age of four to 16, ""wild child"" Kaspar Hauser turned up in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1828, barely able to speak or walk. Within months he developed into an engaging, articulate adolescent, but was stabbed to death in 1833 by an unknown assailant. Masson leans toward the modern consensus that Hauser was a prince--heir to the throne of Baden, as the son of Napoleon's adopted daughter, Stephanie de Beauharnais, and Karl, grand duke of Baden. While he reviews the latest evidence on who might have wanted Hauser eliminated, Masson (The Assault on Truth) focuses here on the abuse inflicted on a boy who was dismissed by skeptics as a liar or a fraud. He also reports on his discovery in Stuttgart of the diary of Georg Friedrich Daumer, Hauser's first tutor--a document presumed lost for 160 years. Included too are Masson's translation of a long-out-of-print 1832 biography of Hauser by jurist Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach, who led the investigation into his identity; an analysis of the boy's recurrent dreams; and a brief survey of feral children. This is a stunning piece of detective work. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996 Release date: 03/01/1996 Genre: Nonfiction
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