It is interesting before giving a portrait of Paul Boyton to locate him in the media landscape of the time because that gives an idea of the glance which one carries on him. Does Paul Boyton, this name evoke something in your memory? Admittedly not! Perhaps more the scholars will remember that in 1875, he was the first man to cross the English Channel. But the report will undoubtedly go hardly further. And yet, in this year 1877, Paul Boyton, "Capt" as calls his friends, are the most famous man of planet. He does not have a newspaper, a review which did not publish his exploits or his engravings. The fashion is with the "boytonmania", rings with cigars, calendars, leaflet, songs, card decks for children, orchids with his name, all is pretext to stick an effigy which makes vibrate crowd "Business is business", Boyton makes sell.
"L' uomo pesce", the man fish thus called by the Italians whereas he has just descended Pô to the Adriatic, collects the nautical exploits.
Covered its famous "Merriman" inflatable suit of vulcanized rubber, out of black rubber, he comes
to cross by twice the English Channel, and his European round with the descent of all the large rivers, unchains the passion of enthusiastic crowd. His meeting with Jules Verne in 1878, at the time of the descent of the Loire, will deeply mark the writer who in the following year will publish "The tribulations of a Chinese in China", work in which a whole chapter will be devoted to the apparatuses of the Boyton Captain. In Italy, the novelist Ouida (Louise of Ramee) will also fall under his charm by accommodating him at home. Nothing resists to him, all seems to succeed to him, and he connects the demonstrations exhibitions. He adds to his success list the Messina and Straits of Gibraltar. Everywhere he is received with the honours due to large, the Royal European courts tear off him for particular exhibitions. Untiring Paul Boyton, stroke and will swim still a long time. His "devise", which he makes engrave on a gold watch offered by the Victoria queen: "While I swim I live" characterizes perfectly this man who doubtless will have spent more time in water than on ground. Europe has its limits, he goes back to the USA and attacks the large American rivers such Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and well of others still. He is then the time of the challenges, of which most memorable will be that which will oppose it to the Webb captain who one month after him crossed the English Channel to the stroke, but... without its life saving rubber suit.
Here is for a preliminary and almost banal presentation which could stop there, but the image of "Capt' Boyton" would be truncated perfectly for this man who did everything or almost everything in his life. Diving for pearls and corals, hunting for treasure in the Gulf of Mexico, representing
in "fairs" with his father in the Indians country, researcher of diamond in South Africa, rescuer in the fashion seaside resort of Cape-May in the New Jersey, trafficker of weapons at the sides of the revolutionists
Mexicains, volunteer Franc-tireur in Le Havre in 1870 to fight the Prussians or captain in the army of Peru in a unit of torpedoes where he is charged to destroy the Chileans ships, "archaeologist with dynamite" in
South America, promoter of amusement parks, ornithologist etc....
the list would be long if it were to be exhaustive.
We are in the presence of a first image which contrasts with another, that which hedelivers to us in one of its letters [ms5]. I am somebody of simple declares he in substance and his glance is done critical on the society and the media: «…I have no love for society… » « Evidently you formed that opinion (on Paul Boyton) from the newspapers… ». And yet, precursor of modern times he understood very early all the party that he could draw from the media to earn money.
In 1878, Paul, as he affirms he is 30 years old, brown with the blue eyes he is awkward and bashful, with a lazy temper, anger only some minutes. He loves a calm and quiet life far from society which he considers artificial ; he does not dance much nor does not play but loves the music. Conversely he likes the life enormously outside to practise horsemanship hunting and canoeing. He loves children, drink (moderately, the beer with the wine prefers), smokes (pipe and cigars). As for food, he is satisfied of ragout. Catholic, but not practising by obligation, he never gamble or bet. He carries a certain detachment to the money; he could quickly become rich if he had wanted while marrying for example with this Hungarian widowed rich person who wanted to marry him but the love seems more significant to him [ms5]. He is rich in notoriety but not in money. He is very attached to his family and in particular to his old mother.
This man with the two portraits has just fallen in love with Elise SAUTEYRON and yet its meetings with the female gente do not miss, the baptisms of its "Baby mine", floating machine in which he stores his material of survival at the time of his nautical tours, can testify some. Thus in turn he will be baptized Irene d' Ungeria, Isabel de Toledo (1877), Addie (1879) and finally Baby Mine. For as much the memory of his small Frenchwoman constantly remains present and on October 23, 1882, it is her whom heasks in marriage to Mr. SAUTEYRON. The answer of the father and undoubtedly the risks of his animated life will bring him the moving rupture letter on November 14, 1884 [ Ms16 ].
It is in this epistolary intimate voyage to which I invite you through these letters which constitute marvellous memories where testimony ethnographic disputes it with the love and the tragedy.
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