Lost Prince: The Unsolved Mystery of Kaspar Hauser

Lost Prince: The Unsolved Mystery of Kaspar Hauser

4.0 1
by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, J Moussaieff Masson

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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, Stphanie 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.)
Jay Freeman
Kaspar Hauser appeared on the streets of Nuremberg in 1828; apparently, he had been confined in a dimly lit dungeon for most of his 16 years. Unlike Victor the "wild child" of Aveyron, Hauser had normal intelligence and soon showed rapid progress in language acquisition. Why had he been confined? For some, it was because he was a rejected child of German royalty. That suspicion was heightened when Hauser was mysteriously murdered in 1832. Masson, who has written extensively on psychotherapy, provides the first complete English translation of Anselm van Feuerbach's classic examination of the Hauser mystery. In addition, Masson's own essay furnishes some original and tantalizing insights. His speculations on Hauser's significance regarding human nature, language acquisition, and child-rearing practices are valuable food for thought. Ultimately, of course, the mystery of Hauser remains just that, so the fascination and attraction of Hauser and other so-called feral children are bound to continue.
Kirkus Reviews
A valuable introduction to a timeless and fascinating mystery involving child abuse and murder.

There has probably never been a child who so intrigued a continent as Kaspar Hauser. The subject of numerous books and films, this famous "wild child" surfaced in Nuremberg in 1828, a largely illiterate, unsocialized adolescent. He had no recollection of a family or a home. For over 12 years he had been imprisoned in a kind of cage, where he was fed only bread and water and denied all human contact. He never saw the face of his captor. Possibly the legitimate heir to the throne of Baden, he was murdered in 1832 by an unknown assailant. In an essay of about 70 pages, psychoanalyst Masson (coauthor of When Elephants Weep, 1995) combs through the available literature to differentiate apparently accurate accounts of Hauser's short life from those that are speculative and tendentious. He offers a credible if not conclusive theory about who murdered Hauser and why. The longest text in this volume is the first complete English translation (by Masson) of an account by Judge Anselm von Feuerbach, whose court had jurisdiction over the Hauser case. Also included is a translation by Masson of an autobiographical sketch by the child-man himself, who after his release apparently learned basic language skills remarkably well. Masson places Hauser's great suffering within the broader context of child abuse during the 19th and 20th centuries, which, he argues, was both widespread and almost universally denied. Unfortunately, he also digresses at points and introduces questionable data. For example, Masson (for whom sexual abuse of girls was a central tenet in his controversial l984 book The Assault on Truth) claims that "about 38 percent of women have been sexually abused by the time they reach the age of eighteen." But he offers no definition of "sexually abused" and no corroborating data.

However, Masson's examination will introduce many American readers to one of the great case studies of extreme cruelty and deprivation, and of the remarkable human capacity for adaptability.

Product Details

Free Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.98(w) x 8.59(h) x 0.98(d)

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Lost Prince 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the type of book that stays with you, weeks, months, maybe even years after you've read it. The 19th century historical tale has elements of gothic romaniticism: a lost prince, a boy (Kaspar Hauser) growing up in complete isolation, whose past is a mystery, hints of royal lineage, and the sinister lurkings of jealousy and treachery. Masson probes the mystery with the insight of 20th century background in the psychology of child abuse and it's repercussions. The story is compelling, the details engrossing, the insights enlightening. But the title says it's an unsolved mystery, and the story lives up to the claim. The abrupt finish to the book left me hanging, wishing Masson could have given us just a little more, before sending us back into our own cold cruel world, after leaving Kaspar Hauser's.