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Telling Tales

David Blamires

2. A World of Discovery: Joachim Heinrich Campe

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1The stories of Munchausen reflect the excitement and wonderment of people at the end of a century in which new discoveries and inventions were being made all the time. This wonderment, however, was transposed into a fantasy world of recent history and geographical and technological exploration where surprise and satirical amusement were the order of the day. Only three years after Munchausen was first published in English a quite different sort of German book reflecting the fascination of world exploration made its appearance on the British scene. This was Joachim Heinrich Campe’s New Robinson Crusoe (London: John Stockdale, 1788), a revision of Defoe’s most celebrated novel for the benefit of children of both sexes. It was as different from Munchausen as one can imagine. Campe was an educationist of a most serious and morally concerned kind, but he also knew how to capture children’s attention with interesting subjects and variety of approach. Many of his books, in particular The New Robinson Crusoe, continued to be reprinted for much of the nineteenth century.

2Joachim Heinrich Campe (1746-1818) was the most influential of the German Enlightenment educationists. He was part of the educational movement known as ’philanthropist’ after the Philanthropinum in Dessau, an establishment founded by Johann Bernhard Basedow (1723-90). The movement also contained Christian Gotthilf Salzmann (1744-1811), about whom more will be said in the next chapter. Linked with it was Friedrich Eberhard von Rochow (1734-1805), who was deeply concerned for the education of the rural population and compiled a highly influential reader called Der Kinderfreund (The Children’s Friend). Although both Basedow and Rochow wrote a good deal, none of their work was translated into English. The ’philanthropists’ wrote a large number of books designed to instruct children, but their concern was moral education rather than principles of Protestant or Catholic Christianity or the rudiments of Latin grammar. They believed that moral education appropriate to the intellectual capacities of children and young people was best given through simple stories about children and their families and through exemplary figures and deeds of history. From our present perspective ’moral education’ may sound grave and offputting, but eighteenth-century children will have warmed to Campe’s ability to narrate varied events, surprise them with changes of mood and keep them in suspense about what is to happen next.

3Basedow is described from the viewpoint of a boy writing to his uncle in Johann Gottlieb Schummel’s children’s book Fritzens Reise nach Dessau (Fritz’s Journey to Dessau) (1776):

  • 1 Hans-Heino Ewers (ed.), Kinder- und Jugendliteratur der Aufklärung (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1980), pp. (...)

Mr Basedow was standing at a desk in his dressing gown right at the back and was writing. You have already seen him, dear uncle, haven’t you? Otherwise I will describe him to you straight away. He is not tall, not as tall as you, and not fat either, and I couldn’t say that there was anything special about his face; but I don’t know, in his eyebrows and in his eyes there is something I can’t describe, but it is something quite special. We came at a rather inconvenient time for him, but he was still very kind and said that Papa should not take it amiss, but he had a lot of work to do before tomorrow and that he would visit us in our lodgings towards evening.1

4Campe spent a year (1776-77) as educational adviser and co-director with Basedow at Dessau, and Salzmann was there for three years (1781-84) as liturgist. Both went on to found similar establishments of their own.

5The work of these German educationists was profoundly influenced by Rousseau, whose Emile had been published in 1762. They too objected to rote learning and the dinning into children’s heads of knowledge in no way adapted to their capacity for understanding. They were opposed to education based on the authoritarianism of superior age. What men like Basedow, Campe, Salzmann and Rochow attempted was respect for children’s natural limitations, and an approach to learning that relied on encouragement and stimulation rather than demanding the child’s unquestioning obedience, with physical punishment meted out for failure. Their concept of education was holistic rather than subject-orientated. Their approach was Socratic, using the child’s natural curiosity as the means to increasing understanding of the world. Everywhere they were ready to explain, to demonstrate cause and effect, not only in the world of nature, but in the realms of human behaviour. They show that certain kinds of behaviour have certain consequences, both positive and negative. Reason and natural religion inform the patterns of action recommended. Where reason cannot provide an explanation, as, for example, with innocent suffering or natural disasters, the answer lies in the inscrutable purposes of God. The teacher in the thinking and practice of the philanthropist establishments occupies the role of a benevolent father; his school is an enlarged family, shaped by loving concern for each and every child.

6The child in these establishments is guided into a way of life that is characterized by simplicity, naturalness, honesty and mutual consideration. In Schummel’s already quoted book Fritz writes in a letter to his brother:

  • 2 Ibid., p. 403, my translation.

Be cheerful, jump about and dance: I want to tell you something about the little philanthropists! ... But first I must describe a little what they look like. They have all short hair, and not one of them needs a wigmaker. The little ones go without a cravat, with an open neck, and their shirt is folded back over their suit; it looks very nice! And Papa says it’s much more healthy than the warm, thick neck-cloths that are now the fashion.2

7Fritz’s letter goes on to describe the boys talking Latin and French at table. He is so taken by their friendliness and self-confidence in talking to his father, whom they had never before met, that all his anxieties disappear. This is, then, the context in which we need to look at Campe’s life and books.

8Campe was born near Holzminden in the principality of Brunswick and studied theology at the universities of Helmstedt and Halle. From 1769-73 he was tutor with the Humboldt family at Tegel, near Berlin, and in 1775 he returned for a year to supervise the studies of the two brothers, Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt (1767-1835 and 1769-1859), both of whom remained affectionately attached to him for the rest of his life. Wilhelm became famous as a classical scholar and linguist, friend of Schiller, minister in the Prussian Government and founder of the University of Berlin (1810), which now bears the two brothers’ name. Alexander became the celebrated explorer of South and Central America and the leading German scientist in the fields of geology, plant geography, vulcanology and climatology, a man of infinite curiosity about the workings of the natural world. It is tempting to suppose that the foundation for the achievements of the two brothers was laid by Campe. In 1776 Campe joined Basedow’s Philanthropin in Dessau, leaving in 1777 in order to start his own small educational establishment in Hamburg, where he remained until 1783. In 1786 he became educational adviser in Brunswick and in the following year took over the running of the School Bookshop. In 1807 he became deputy for Brunswick to the parliament of the new Napoleonic Kingdom of Westphalia at Kassel.

9Campe was a prolific author: his collected works, published in 1817 just before he died, amount to thirty volumes. Six of his books were translated into English and enjoyed varying degrees of popularity. These were, in chronological order, Robinson der Jüngere (1779-80); Kleine Selenlehre für Kinder (Little Book of Pastoral Care for Children) (1780); Die Entdekkung von Amerika (The Discovery of America), a three-part work beginning with Kolumbus (1781), followed by Cortez (1782) and Pizarro (1782); and Gemälde des Nordens (Pictures of the North) (1785). They were not, however, translated in this order into English. It is obvious from this list of titles that British readers were most attracted to Campe’s books of discovery and adventure, and among them one in particular stood out.

10More than anything, Campe was known in Britain as the author of the famous Robinsonade that went under the titles of Robinson the Younger or The New Robinson Crusoe. Campe had made his own translation into English with the former title (Hamburg: C. E. Bohn, 1781-82), but it was an anonymous translation made from his French version that first made the book famous in Britain, using the latter title. After this new editions and abridgements were published by Stockdale up to 1827. A different version, probably an abridgement too, was made by the hack writer Richard Johnson and published by Elizabeth Newbery in 1790 and 1797. It may have been this version that was advertised by John Harris, successor to the Newberys, for c. 1803 and 1808, but no copies of either have been traced.

  • 3 Heinz Wegehaupt, Robinson und Struwwelpeter. Bücher für Kinder aus fünf Jahrhunderten (Berlin: Deu (...)

11A new edition of Robinson the Younger by John Timäus was published by Campe’s Schulbuchhandlung in Brunswick in 1800, so clearly there was a market for an English version of the text in Germany, probably as a means of teaching English to German children. This may have been a commercial response to the English-language edition prepared by Professor F. C. Mertens specifically for beginners in the English language and first published in Frankfurt am Main by F. Wilmans in 1799 (second edition 1807, third edition 1824). Meanwhile, Campe’s original German edition continued strong, and by 1882 over a hundred editions had been printed.3

  • 4 Joachim Heinrich Campe, Robinson der Jüngere, ed. Alwin Binder and Heinrich Richartz (Stuttgart: R (...)

12It must have been a mid-century edition that fell into the hands of R. Hick of Woodhouse Hill, Leeds, who undertook a new translation specifically from the German for his own little boys. This appeared with the title Robinson the Younger; or, the New Crusoe (G. Routledge & Co., 1855; new edition 1866). It was translated from one of the German editions published after 1802, which were textually revised and from which certain passages were omitted.4 A variety of English versions of Campe’s text were thus available in the British Isles (there is an Irish edition of 1809) and Germany over a period of about eighty-five years.

  • 5 Reinhard Stach, Robinson der Jüngere als pädagogisch-didaktisches Modell des philanthropistischen (...)

13Campe’s book obviously goes back to Defoe, who, nearing the age of sixty when Robinson Crusoe was first published in April 1719, could hardly have envisaged what a runaway success it was to become. The book was reprinted three times in the same year, and in August there came a sequel, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. Since then new editions, adaptations and abridgements have never ceased to appear. A German translation was published as early as 1720. Robinson Crusoe was not only a hugely successful book in its own right, but it spawned an extraordinary number of adaptations, imitations and burlesques in several languages. As early as 1722 we find in Germany Der Teutsche Robinson (The German Robinson) and Der Sächsische Robinson (The Saxon Robinson), followed by Der Geistliche Robinson (The Spiritual Robinson) (1723), Der Moralische Robinson (The Moral Robinson) (1724) and Der Buchhändler Robinson (The Bookseller Robinson) (1728),5 but there were many others. Three of these German Robinsonades were translated into English and had varying fortunes. Campe’s was the first and the model for the rest. The second was Johann David Wyss’s Schweizerischer Robinson (1812-13, 1826-27), the most phenomenally successful of all Robinsonades in its many English forms with the title of The Swiss Family Robinson. The third is something of an anticlimax in this context: it is Christoph von Schmid’s Gottfried, der junge Einsiedler (1829), of which an English translation was made as Godfrey, the Little Hermit (1853). It was never as popular as Schmid’s other tales.

  • 6 Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile, trans. Barbara Foxley (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.; New York: E. (...)
  • 7 Wegehaupt, Robinson and Struwwelpeter, p. 83, no. 108.

14Much of the credit for the success of any Robinsonade has to be granted to Defoe. His brilliantly simple tale of adventure and shipwreck, self-reliance, exploration and the utilization of the riches of nature, culminating in the ambiguous relationship with Friday, both servant and friend, is a model of human self-realization. It is a story capable of reflecting a multiplicity of concerns – educational, social, ecological, racial. It is significant that Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was the first book that Rousseau allowed his Emile at twelve or thirteen years old to read.6 When we read Defoe nearly three centuries later, we quickly note the differences between his preoccupations and our own, each reflecting culturally conditioned views, but Defoe’s basic model remains perennially fascinating. Towards the end of the eighteenth century Campe found Defoe’s novel too full of digressions and too old-fashioned in language as well as being defective in certain aspects of morality to be suitable for children. This proved to be the spur for writing his own adaptation.7

15While Defoe’s book was written as a continuous first-person narrative with no divisions into chapters, Campe’s Robinson der Jüngere has an entirely different format. The story is placed in a new narrative format – that of a father telling it to a small group of children living just outside the gates of Hamburg. The individual children and also the mother comment on aspects of the story, usually prompted by some question from the father. The narrative occupies thirty evenings. This structure breaks the story into manageable units for the child readership or audience, and the presence of father, mother and children within the framework creates a secondary scenario providing an interpretation and commentary on the primary tale of Robinson himself. The children become participants in the story as well as its audience. Campe makes clear in his preface that the interreactions of father, mother and children are designed as a model of what such a family should be like.

16The hero of Campe’s book is a seventeen year old boy, the youngest son of a family in Hamburg called Robinson, and his name is Krusoe. He is at the opening of the story the sole surviving son of the family. The eldest son, having become a soldier, has been killed in a battle with the French, while the middle son has died of consumption. Krusoe has been spoilt by his parents and thus not been properly brought up. His adventures begin with him taking ship for England without first getting permission from his parents to do so. When, after various intervening disasters, he is shipwrecked on a desert island in the Caribbean, unlike Defoe’s Robinson, who has a gun, tools, food and drink to start him off, Campe’s Krusoe has absolutely nothing to help him. His adventures are divided into three periods. In the first he is alone and has to make shift with just his head and his hands. In the second he gains a companion, Friday, and learns to value human society. Finally, in the third the wreck of a European ship provides him with tools and other things that make for a more civilized life and eventually permit him to return first to England and then to Hamburg, where he is reconciled with his father and finds that his mother has died. In this way Campe creates a miniature history of human development, except for the fact that the shipwrecked Krusoe already has certain spiritual and emotional resources from his earlier life. These are evidenced through his memory of hymns, which help him in his distress. He is also full of deep contrition for his folly in abandoning his home and parents.

4. J. H. Campe, The New Robinson Crusoe; an Instructive and Entertaining History, for the Use of Children of Both Sexes. Translated from the French.
New Edition (1811). Frontispiece by John Bewick.

17Campe’s hero satisfies his hunger first by eating oysters, unlike Defoe’s Robinson, who seems to enjoy a totally fish-free diet. The problem of opening oyster shells without any tool is not addressed. But from then on he discovers a variety of ways in which to improve his material conditions – using a shell for a spade, making a rope out of flax, building a shelter in a cave, planting saplings in front to provide defence, and so on. The children identify with Robinson’s situation and troubles not simply through interjections and questions, but by dressing up like him at the beginning of chapter 5 and by writing letters to him in chapter 7. The narrative thus becomes interactive. The children learn from Robinson’s experiences things that are important to themselves in their own development.

  • 8 The New Robinson Crusoe (London: John Stockdale, 1811), vol. 1, p. 319 (thirteenth evening).

18Since Campe constantly emphasizes this, the modern reader never doubts that he or she is being instructed as well as being told an engrossing story. Perhaps the most important lesson for Krusoe was: ’Experience had taught him, that in a life of labour nothing helps industry so much as regularity, and a methodical distribution of the work to the different hours of the day’.8 This is rubbed in further at the end of the book when Robinson, back in Hamburg, is repeatedly asked to speak about his experiences:

  • 9 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 306.

he never forgot to address to the fathers and mothers who heard him the following exhortation, ’If you love your children, I pray you, teach them, in their early years, to be godly, sober, and laborious:’ and if there happened to be young persons present, he was careful to give them this wholesome advice, ’My dear children, obey your parents and your teachers; learn diligently whatever you have a capacity to learn; fear God, and be careful – oh, be careful to avoid idleness! it is the mother of every vice’.9

19By the end of the book Robinson and his companion Friday have established themselves in Hamburg as models of industry and frugality, generosity, humanity and practical piety, so that the children each make the resolution to try to do the same.

20At various points in the book Campe interweaves events from Robinson’s story with those of the Hamburg children. One of the most striking of these, perhaps rather heavy-handed from a modern viewpoint, occurs at the end of chapter 8 when the father interrupts his narration of Robinson’s story, saying that he doesn’t want to end the evening by telling the children about a terrible event which might disturb their sleep and cause them to dream about it. Naturally enough, the children are all agog and anxious about what might have happened to poor Robinson, all the more so as the father puts off continuing his story for several evenings. He then promises them a trip to Travemünde (on the Baltic near Lübeck), which they get excited about, only to have their expectations further upset. The father asks the children to release him from his promise, saying that the wind conditions would make it unsatisfactory for the ships, that if they waited four weeks there would be masses of herring, and – most importantly – that their new friends, Mathias and Ferdinand, who are not arriving for another four weeks, would be puzzled why the trip had not been postponed so that they too could participate. The children are reduced to a painful silence by this reasoning, but are persuaded to acquiesce. They learn how important it is to exercise patience and self-control and that pleasure deferred can mean greater enjoyment when it comes. The trip to Travemünde is briefly alluded to in chapter 13 as having taken place, but it is not described.

21One of the key incidents in Campe occurs when Robinson stumbles across the human footprint (chapter 14), which causes him immediate terror because of the supposition that the natives of the Caribbean are cannibals. In response to the children’s expression of sympathy the father interjects:

  • 10 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 6.

It would have been better for Robinson, had he been accustomed from his childhood not to give way to the impulse of terror, even in the greatest dangers, and had he, at this moment, preserved more coolness and presence of mind. We can all bring ourselves to it, if we will but pay an early and constant attention to the rendering of our bodies, as well as our minds, sound and vigorous.10

5. J. H. Campe, The Discovery of America; for the Use of Children and Young Persons (1799). Frontispiece by J. Burney.

22A little further on the text proceeds to a description of the site of the cannibalistic feast, after which the father responds to one of the children calling the savages ’detestable creatures’:

  • 11 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 12.

Let us, my dear Charlotte, detest their atrocious manners, and not their persons: they have received no education, no instruction. If you had been so unfortunate as to have received your birth amongst these savage people, you would, like them, run about naked in the woods, without the least shame, stupid and fierce as a brute beast; you would paint your body and your face with various colours, particularly red: you would make holes in your nose and ears, and be very proud to carry in them, for ornament, birds feathers, sea shells, and other trifles: you would, then, make one of the abominable feasts of your depraved relations, and there take your share with as much pleasure as you do now at our best dinners.11

23One of the boys mentions that there are still such men in New Zealand, about which their father has read them a travel account the previous winter.

24Campe’s book is cleverly written and full of incident and suspense. Robinson’s discoveries and adventures are nicely calculated to engage the emotions, intellect and moral judgements of the eleven to twelve year old children that Campe envisaged as its readers. Its educational aims are transparent, but engagingly realized through the interplay of Robinson’s story with that of the children to whom it is being told. It is not surprising that the book was so eagerly read by generations of children for about a hundred years.

25Following the success of Robinson der Jüngere Campe went on to write more books using material from the world of geographical discovery not only to deal with history, but also to present contrasting and instructive examples of human conduct. In Die Entdekkung von Amerika (Hamburg: C. E. Bohn, 1781-82) he was able to build on Robinson to discuss deeds of the greatest bravery and heroism as well as the basest and most despicable actions.

26This three-part history was translated into English as The Discovery of America (London: J. Johnson, 1799), which dealt with Columbus; Cortes; or, the Discovery of Mexico (London: J. Johnson, 1800); and Pizarro; or, the Conquest of Peru (London: J. Johnson, 1800). These earliest editions provide no indication of the translator’s name, but later editions are credited to Elizabeth Helme (d. 1816), the author of several other instructive children’s books, including histories of England and Scotland. All three books enjoyed several reprintings up to the late 1820s in the case of Columbus and Cortes, up to 1819 in the case of Pizarro. A note in the Osborne Collection catalogue (p. 162) indicates that the 1819 edition of the latter is a different translation from that published in 1800. Elizabeth Helme appears to have been working virtually concurrently with this other translator, as her Columbus and Cortes appeared in 1799 (London: Sampson Low), with Pizarro in 1800 (Dublin: P. Wogan, etc.).

27Campe was particularly drawn to using voyages of discovery for educative purposes and explains why in the preface to The Discovery of America:

  • 12 J. H. Campe, The Discovery of America; for the Use of Children and Young Persons (London: J. Johns (...)

For if there be any thing capable of enlightening the minds of youth, of extending their knowledge of the world in an agreeable manner, of weakening their inclination to romantic views of life, and Arcadian dreams, exhibited in such inviting colours by our fashionable publications; if there be any thing capable of giving them a proper disgust, at that frivolous, affected, mind and body debilitating tattle, with which such books are filled; and, on the other hand, of instilling a desirable taste for more serious and useful employment; – if there be any thing capable of effecting these valuable purposes, it is certainly the perusal of travels in which such care is taken, both with the matter and the manner, as to render them best calculated to engage the attention of youth.12

28The format of the three American volumes is similar to that of Robinson, i.e. a series of chapters in which a father relates the historical events to a small group of children, including their reactions and questions, together with the father’s answers. Although the events and characters portrayed reflect historical reality rather than fiction, Campe is no detached surveyor of the scene. He uses his subject-matter to deliver instances of both admirable and despicable conduct, often through the life of one and the same person. The worst of human behaviour in greed, trickery, suspicion, envy and brutality is particularly to the fore in the Spaniards’ treatment of the Aztec Montezuma, the Inca Atahualpa and their respective followers, but the courage, resourcefulness and persistence of the conqueror explorers are, understandably, presented as examples to be admired and emulated. The stories involve such a complex of good and bad that it is impossible for either side to be wholly demonized or celebrated, but one cannot help feeling that Campe has greater sympathy for the luckless Americans than for the rapacious invaders. At the opening of Cortez he states:

  • 13 J. H. Campe, Cortez; or the Conquest of Mexico, trans. Elizabeth Helme (London: Baldwin, Cradock, (...)

I am grieved, my children, to be under the necessity of informing you before-hand, that the pleasure you promise yourselves from my narrative will often give place to melancholy and disgust. I must bring you acquainted with times, in which men were so degenerate, so savage, that it is difficult to distinguish them from wolves, tigers, and other ferocious beasts.13

29A few pages further on he characterizes Cortez’s expedition against the Mexicans as ’the most unjust war that ever disgraced the annals of history’ and declares:

  • 14 Ibid., pp. 25-26.

You see, therefore, my children, that it is possible for the same man to be at once a hero and a robber, generous and cruel, pious and inhuman! It is the natural effect of superstition. It never once occurred to Cortez, that it might be unjust to make war upon a people who could never have injured the Europeans, since they knew not that they existed. The misfortune of these poor people in never having heard that they had a Mediator, was a sufficient reason for persecuting and subduing them!14

30Campe is everywhere a man of reason, so he has the father and the children engage in a discussion of the pros and cons of celebrating or condemning both Cortez and the Americans.

31In Pizarro one of the children refers back to the New Robinson Crusoe when the father embarks on a description of the qualities of the lama (p. 68), and mention is made of the fact that, if transported to Europe, they might thrive in the climate of the Alps or the Blocksberg in the Harz Mountains (p. 71). Pizarro is in many ways less of a hero than Columbus or Cortez. Of his deception of his fellow explorer Almagro Campe writes:

  • 15 J. H. Campe, Pizarro; or the Conquest of Peru, trans. Elizabeth Helme (London: C. Cradock and W. J (...)

Learn then from this example, that the most distinguished talents, the most brilliant actions, cannot merit affection or esteem, unless united to probity and generosity. Hypocrisy and chicane fix a disgrace on human nature for which nothing can atone.15

32Campe’s texts are richly informative in addition to pointing up human successes and deficiences. This is appropriate in that the American trilogy is designed for children who are that much older than when they heard about Robinson the Younger. From what they have learnt elsewhere two of the boys listening to Pizarro can fill in illustrative examples from Roman history. These examples show Campe linking his history from the sixteenth century with comparable deeds from ancient Rome and showing how both periods provide examples of conduct to be shunned or to be embraced.

33From more recent times Campe mentions the myths of the land of the Amazons, ’female warriors, who governed among themselves without the assistance of men’, and of ’El-Dorado ... which never existed but in the imagination of the adventurers who pretended to have discovered it’ (p. 217). In discounting them he specifically names the French explorer Charles-Marie de La Condamine (1701-74), who travelled over the country of the Amazon and found no trace of their existence. La Condamine’s Voyage à l’Equateur (1751) provided a model to Alexander von Humboldt for writing about his scientific explorations in the same area. Humboldt, rather ironically in view of Campe’s assessment, sailed to South America on a ship called the Pizarro.

34Two further works by Campe were also translated into English, but neither enjoyed the popularity of The New Robinson Crusoe or The Discovery of America trilogy. The first of these was entitled Elementary Dialogues, for the Improvement of Youth (London: Hookham and Carpenter, 1792) and was translated by a Mr Seymour. The title does not correspond directly to that of any of Campe’s works in German, but it reads like a typical product of the times. We shall encounter something comparable when we look at Salzmann.

  • 16 Marjorie Moon, John Harris’s Books for Youth 1801-1843 (Cambridge: Marjorie Moon and Alan Spilman, (...)

35The last work of Campe’s to be translated into English was his Gemälde des Nordens; dargestellt in Jakob Heemskerks und Wilhelm Barenz nördlicher Entdekkungsreise, und den merkwürdigen Abenteuern vier russischer Bootsmänner auf Spitzbergen (Hamburg: Herold, 1785), which constituted the first volume of a collection of travel descriptions put together for young people. In English it is called Polar Scenes, exhibited in the Voyages of Heemskirk and Barenz to the Northern Regions, and in the Adventures of Four Russian Sailors at the Island of Spitzbergen (London: J. Harris & Son, 1821). Further editions are listed for 1822, 1823, 1825 and 1829.16 This anonymous translation came much later than the others we have looked at, appearing only after Campe’s death, perhaps prompted by the Arctic explorations – admittedly in a different region – undertaken by Ross, Parry and Franklin in the period 1819-22.

36The main part of Polar Scenes deals with the attempt of the Dutchmen James Heemskirk, William Barenz and John Cornelius Ryp (to give them the anglicized forms of their names) to find a north-east passage to the Far East. They set off in May 1596 from Amsterdam and reached Spitzbergen in late July. There the two vessels separated, Cornelius going north and Barenz south. Barenz’s party was marooned for the winter on Nova Zembla, where the men suffered enormous privations, fighting off polar bears being one of their major problems. They managed to free themselves from the ice in mid June 1597 and reached Russian soil in early August. On this arduous voyage two of the sailors – Barenz and Andriff (a misspelling for Andrisz) – died. Amazingly, Heemskirk and Ryp were reunited on the Kola peninsula and returned to Amsterdam, arriving on 1 November 1597. The shorter part of the book recounts a later expedition, beginning in 1743, in which four Russian sailors were wrecked on Spitzbergen and survived there for six years until they were rescued by another ship, which had been blown off course. In the meantime one of the men died of scurvy.

37Campe used these heroic struggles as examples of human endurance in the face of disaster. The men were Robinson Crusoes in the most inhospitable of circumstances, but through self-reliance and providential assistance they – for the most part – survived. The book contains information about whaling, polar bears, sea-dogs and sea-cows and also the peoples living in the northernmost stretches of Russia, especially the Samoyeds and Laplanders. But the principal object of Campe’s narratives was to contrast the comfortable lives of his readers with the stoic and inventive heroism of the explorers and to make his audience thankful for their own lives and willing to accept what God dealt out to them.

38In using the themes of exploration and discovery as the basis of much of his writing, Campe scored well with his readers. His subject-matter was exciting and chimed in with the widespread fascination with contemporary European explorers, who were busy enlarging the European spheres of knowledge, commerce and power. The voyages he dealt with were located in a fairly distant past – some three hundred years before in the case of The Discovery of America books – so his concerns were with general questions of human conduct rather than with specific contemporary issues. The application of positive skills and qualities to the understanding of life was the focus of his educational aims. In this endeavour the use of reason was a primary tool, but Campe was always ready to admit that reason cannot explain everything. The ways of God are often inaccessible to human comprehension, as the ways of thoughtful and loving parents often are to their children. But in these books God is the God of natural religion, not of Christian revelation, which is a different field of exploration.


1 Hans-Heino Ewers (ed.), Kinder- und Jugendliteratur der Aufklärung (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1980), pp. 402-03, my translation.

2 Ibid., p. 403, my translation.

3 Heinz Wegehaupt, Robinson und Struwwelpeter. Bücher für Kinder aus fünf Jahrhunderten (Berlin: Deutsche Staatsbibliothek in der Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 1991), p. 83, no. 110.

4 Joachim Heinrich Campe, Robinson der Jüngere, ed. Alwin Binder and Heinrich Richartz (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1981), pp. 351-53.

5 Reinhard Stach, Robinson der Jüngere als pädagogisch-didaktisches Modell des philanthropistischen Erziehungsdenkens (Ratingen, Wuppertal, Kastellaun: Aloys Henn, 1970), p. 89.

6 Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile, trans. Barbara Foxley (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc., 1948), book 3, p. 147.

7 Wegehaupt, Robinson and Struwwelpeter, p. 83, no. 108.

8 The New Robinson Crusoe (London: John Stockdale, 1811), vol. 1, p. 319 (thirteenth evening).

9 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 306.

10 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 6.

11 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 12.

12 J. H. Campe, The Discovery of America; for the Use of Children and Young Persons (London: J. Johnson, 1799), pp. vii-viii.

13 J. H. Campe, Cortez; or the Conquest of Mexico, trans. Elizabeth Helme (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1819), p. 1.

14 Ibid., pp. 25-26.

15 J. H. Campe, Pizarro; or the Conquest of Peru, trans. Elizabeth Helme (London: C. Cradock and W. Joy, 1811), p. 189.

16 Marjorie Moon, John Harris’s Books for Youth 1801-1843 (Cambridge: Marjorie Moon and Alan Spilman, 1976), no. 110.

Table des illustrations

Légende 4. J. H. Campe, The New Robinson Crusoe; an Instructive and Entertaining History, for the Use of Children of Both Sexes. Translated from the French.New Edition (1811). Frontispiece by John Bewick.
Fichier image/jpeg, 634k
Légende 5. J. H. Campe, The Discovery of America; for the Use of Children and Young Persons (1799). Frontispiece by J. Burney.
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