Lost Prince: The Unsolved Mystery of Kaspar Hauser

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Kept in a dungeon for his entire childhood, Kaspar Hauser turned up in Nuremberg in 1828 when he was sixteen, barely able to talk or walk, a "wild child." Within a few years, his gentleness, simplicity, and profundity captured the interest of all Europe. Hauser was murdered just a few years later, in 1833. Who was Kaspar Hauser? Was he German royalty as many have believed? Why was he kept in a dungeon all those years, and who murdered him? Jeffrey Masson, whose work on the reality of child abuse in Freud's time ...
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Overview

Kept in a dungeon for his entire childhood, Kaspar Hauser turned up in Nuremberg in 1828 when he was sixteen, barely able to talk or walk, a "wild child." Within a few years, his gentleness, simplicity, and profundity captured the interest of all Europe. Hauser was murdered just a few years later, in 1833. Who was Kaspar Hauser? Was he German royalty as many have believed? Why was he kept in a dungeon all those years, and who murdered him? Jeffrey Masson, whose work on the reality of child abuse in Freud's time created an explosion in the world of psychoanalysis, has discovered the earliest document on the Kaspar Hauser story - Georg Friedrich Daumer's notes of Kaspar Hauser's first two years in Daumer's house, long thought to be lost. On the basis of these notes and other documents, some previously unpublished, Masson provides the first complete English translation of one of the great works of German literature, Anselm von Feuerbach's story of Kaspar Hauser. Along with this translation, Masson includes a lengthy essay in which he explores many of the fascinating issues raised by the case. In this essay, Masson not only sheds light on Kaspar Hauser's identity and murder, but also provides new insights concerning language development, man's innate nature, and the long-term effects of trauma and abuse.

Kept in a dungeon for his entire childhood, Kaspar Hauser turned up in Nuremberg in 1828 when he was 16. Barely able to talk or walk, Hauser was a virtual "wild child, " and was murdered just a few years later in 1833. Who was Hauser? Why was he kept in a dungeon all those years? Who murdered him? Was he German royalty? Masson, whose expertise is the study of child abuse during Freud's time, now provides the first English translation of this great mystery. of photos.

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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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684822969
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 2/6/1996
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.59 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
A Sigmund Freud scholar knocked from his perch at the Freudian Archives and the subject of a famous New Yorker profile -- and the driver of subsequent libel litigation -- Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson found a second career in the publishing world when he decided to set aside his beefs with the psychological community and just talk to the animals.

Biography

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s career falls not-so-neatly into two rather distinct phases. In his early days, as a Freudian scholar and disenchanted psychoanalyst, he was an author-combatant (he uses the term “maverick” on his Web site), challenging perceived thinking on Sigmund Freud and therapy itself.

He rankled sensibilities, attracted often-harsh criticism and lost his post as guardian of the Freud Archives. He even became embroiled in one of the most notorious libel battles of recent times, alleging that writer Janet Malcolm made up quotes in her highly unflattering two-part profile of him in the New Yorker in 1983.

In the second -- and more commercially successful -- phase, Masson has instead focused his psychological insights on a community that cannot talk back: the animal kingdom. Beginning with When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Life of Animals in 1995, Masson has put dogs, cats, mongooses, etc., on the couch, explaining that they, just like their more litigious bipedal cousins, have feelings.

"A masterpiece,” said Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of a similar classic, The Hidden Life of Dogs, “the most comprehensive and compelling argument for animal sensibility that I've yet seen."

Even amid the controversy of the early part of his career, Masson garnered positive reviews for his translations of Sigmund Freud’s letters and his passionate critiques of psychotherapy. (To be sure, he garnered less glowing ones as well.) A former Sanskrit scholar, Masson was placed in the care of the famous doctor’s archives. But when his research in those same archives turned up correspondence that he said discredited Freudian’s theories about sexual abuse among children, he made those findings public. He lost his position and faced the wrath of Freud’s defenders.

In the Nation, though, he found support. Reviewing Masson’s book on the discovery, the newspaper wrote: “Those who bother to read The Assault on Truth will probably be surprised to discover that the book is a lavishly documented, carefully reasoned work, written in a straightforward, readable style, with only occasional polemical flourishes. The passion of the book is that of a scholar trying to solve a puzzle; only now and then does the voice break to reveal the bewildered outrage and pain of the recently excommunicated disciple.”

His translation of the letters in question drew praise from The New York Times: "The publication of The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess represents an important moment of truth... The general public can now evaluate at first hand the evidence bearing on the various controversial issues raised by the letters... Of more lasting importance, however, is the insight this new edition provides into the creative process at work in the formation of a fundamentally important scientific theory."

His 1988 attack on therapy itself, Against Therapy: Emotional Tyranny and the Myth of Psychological Healing was dismissed by many as a screed, but Time pointed out that screeds can sometimes also be wake-up calls: “Masson raises some intriguing points, even if he insists on doing so at the top of his voice. Psychotherapy is a big and largely unchallenged business in the U.S.; many of its practitioners wield considerable influence over personal lives and public policy. Once in a while, it does no harm to listen to an alarmist hollering that some of those shrinks have no clothes.”

Not until Masson turned to the psychological study of animals did he draw the widespread attention of the public at large. When Elephants Weep, written with Susan McCarthy, may have had critics pointing out that his evidence was largely anecdotal – the title, in fact, comes from a story of a circus elephant that collapsed in tears when it couldn’t learn a new routine – but an animal-loving public ate it up. Elephants has been translated into more than 20 languages and has sold more than a half a million copies in the United States alone.

That set the stage for a hugely popular follow-up Dogs Never Lie About Love: Reflections on the Emotional Lives of Dogs. A bestseller, it won praise from the Los Angeles Times for its risk-taking and uncompromising puppy love. “The strengths that this Sanskrit scholar,” she wrote, “brings to his subject are intelligence, originality and a refreshing willingness to go out on a good number of scientifically unsupported limbs in his enthusiasm for canines.”

Now for the felines. The Nine Emotional Live of Cats: A Journey into the Feline Heart, released in the fall of 2002, again won praise from Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, who penned her own ode to the cat, The Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture. "An affectionate, completely engaging book full of new insights into the emotional lives of cats,” she said. “Of course, all cats are interesting, but Masson’s five felines seem particularly so – and you don’t need to be a cat lover to enjoy them via these pages."

Masson’s turn to the wild kingdom has brought him financial success certainly, but he says the rewards run even deeper than that. As he told Newsday in 1997, “I learned more about emotions from dogs than I did from my psychoanalysis. I think dogs make better therapists than Freudian analysts… and they don’t cost as much, either.”

Good To Know

Masson legally changed his middle name from Lloyd to Moussaieff in 1975.

In June 1980, when he was interviewing with Sigmund Freud’s 84-year-old daughter Anna for the position to head the Freud Archives, he walked her pet Chow in the back yard.

Masson's long-term goal is to help his wife, Leila, set up a camp for children with chronic illnesses where they can learn alternative methods to diminish pain.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Jeffrey Lloyd Masson (birth name, legally changed in 1975)
    2. Hometown:
      Auckland, New Zealand
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 28, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Education:
      B.A., Harvard, 1964; Toronto Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1978, Ph.D. in Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard, 1970

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2000

    a haunting historical mystery of trust, treachery and abuse

    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.

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