by Admiral Fartmore
(book assigned by Beau Dashington)
Editor’s note: Alas! How wretched is I, Beau the horse, whose Bestial Pleasures have render’d him odious to the rest of his Fellow Creatures… I doth fucked up my review of Tintin and I am just simil’r to the Spanish Inquisition and the Fascists, and I shall hath no more sodom’y. Blast! How I doth love the sodom’y.
The turn of the eighteenth century was an exciting period in European history. It was the Age of Enlightenment, the golden age of piracy, and the period in which every country worth its salt (or pepper, or sugar, or slaves) fought tooth-and-nail for distant overseas possessions. Call it whatever you like, it was a period defined by European innovation, ambition and self-righteousness. It was also a period when a lot of folks were concerned about who might be fucking who in the butt.
Ah, yes, good old sodomy: a bit of the back-door business. You know, the old wrong-turn-down-a-one-way? Tying your horse up in the pig-pen? The old headphone jack up the Aux-in? Paying by cheque at the grocer? The old Newt Gingrich? Sodomy.
My assignment for this week is the 1725 English publication of the diary of a Dutch sailor, who had been marooned in the Atlantic under charges of sodomy. The sailor in question was one Leondert Hussenlosch, who is presumed to have died some six months after his abandonment, though his body was never found. His diary was found by English sailors a few years later and was reprinted in England under several names, including:
“Heaven’s Just Vengeance Exemplify’d,”
“Sodomy Punish’d, Being a True and Exact Relation Of What Befel To One Leondert Hussenlosch, A Dutch Man, Who By Command of the Dutch East Fleet, was put on Shore of the Desolate Island of Ascention,”
“An Authentick Relation of the Many Hardships and Sufferings of a Dutch Sailor, Who Was Put on Shore on the Uninhabited Island Of Ascension, by Order of The Commodore of a Squadron of Dutch Ships – with – A Remarkable Account of his Converse With Apparations and Evil Spirits, during his Residence on the Island – and – A Particular Diary of his Transactions from the Fifth of May to the Fourteenth of October, on Which Day He Perished in a Miserable Condition – Taken from the Original Journal Found in his Tent by Some Sailors, who Landed from on Board the Compton, Captain Morson Commander, In January 1725.”
While if this story was an online article now, it’d probably be titled something like “This Man Commits Sodomy, And You Won’t Believe What Happens Next…” in this period it was apparently conventional marketing strategy to include the entire fucking plot in the title. As there were limited mediums for advertising books, publishers at the time considered the cover to be an opportunity to show the robustness of a work. I don’t really feel like this strategy would work so well these days, either in print or in film. For example, imagine Mel Gibson’s 2000 hit “What Women Want” under this alternate naming scheme:
There wasn’t enough space on the image to write about the sodomy in this movie. And that’s what this movie is really about, right? You know, what women want? They want sodomy, obviously. At least that’s what I gleaned from Helen Hunt’s mid-90s sitcom, “Mad About Sodomy.”
But let’s get back to the sodomy at hand. While “Sodomy Punish’d” is by all accounts based on a real diary, the original has never seen the light of day. The consensus among historians is such that while this book is loosely based on a real story, it was written more-so as a Georgian-era warning against the horrible sin of eating dessert with your dinner fork. This is evidenced by the central themes of the book (the stranded sailor is more preoccupied with his own guilt than with finding water or food), the liberal use of common parables and clichés (one scene where the protagonist finds a strange footprint has been repeatedly pointed out as an almost word-for-word retelling of famous scene from Robinson Crusoe), and finally, that the numerous reprints are dramatically different in both style and content (specifically in regards to how many demons visit Hussenlosch and how many times his Peter played in the sandbox).
The plot is simple: Hussenlosch is dropped off on Ascension Island with a bit of food and water. Shortly thereafter, he is tormented by demons and apparitions of the many men he was purported to have banged. While this might sound like the beginning of some kind of online erotica (and yes, Ascension sounds remarkably like the name of a gay nightclub) it’s actually his divine punishment, and it serves both to justify his being marooned and also to terrify the living fuck out of any reader. Hussenlosch runs around terrified for a couple months, repents endlessly for his bestial desires, and then dies.
“Alas! How wretched is that Man whose Bestial Pleasures have render’d him odious to the rest of his Fellow Creatures… loathsome to himself and spurn’d by Man, he and his misspent Life.”
Literate Europeans of the time were enamoured with tales of adventure abroad, and from the entirely fictitious El Dorado to the real-but-somewhat-disappointing Timbuktu, distant lands were in popular imagination a place where the line between real and fantastic blurred. The frontier was a faraway place where real humans like Blackbeard were the stuff of legend and entirely fictitious characters like Robinson Crusoe were commonly thought to be real. But regardless, a common thread among these characters is that the frontier was a place where individual principles were tested and the complexities of the human experience boiled down into simple concepts like heroism, cowardice, villainy and so on. And it’s in this melange that we find Leondert Hussenlosch, by all accounts a real man that was indeed marooned for committing sodomy. As a sodomite, he served as a perfect foil to the ideal of a brave, masculine frontiersman. It probably also didn’t help that he was Dutch.
But was the island actually covered in apparitions and demons? Was he actually completely preoccupied with guilt over doing another dude in the butt? Or was he more concerned with finding water, food, shelter, and plotting revenge against the assholes that dropped him off in the middle of bumfuck nowhere? (Pun intended.) We don’t know, because there’s no record of his actual diary, just this re-creation by publishers who saw the opportunity to tell a moral story about masculinity.
In retrospect, it’s one of the great pranks of history that fancy boys dressed like this persecuted homosexuals for so long.
And so this book is a Piece of Shit™ because while it claims to be a true account, it almost definitely is not. While it’s somewhat interesting from a historical perspective (which is basically how we justify reading half the shit™ on this blog), this is kind of like the “Million Little Pieces” of its day; a falsified memoir designed to sell well and fit the moral sensibilities of the time. There isn’t much more to say about it than that. But I will say that if ever I end up owning a gay nightclub, I’m naming it Ascension. Or Maroon. Or Hussenlosch. Or Admiral Fartmore’s Hot Deck for Able Seamen.