Kinsmen shipwrecked in the East Indies become means by which to impart the virtues of proper husbandry, self-reliance and thorough knowledge of the natural world – such is the conceit of the pastor Johann David Wyss’s 1812 novel The Swiss Family Robinson. As much a child of the Enlightenment as a man of the cloth, Wyss presents his subjects’ exploits as a series of lessons in morality, natural history and the physical sciences. An ostrich tamed is transformed into transport, soil into earthen vessels. The heteroclite character of the island – elephants cavort with kangaroos, tapirs with giraffes; coconut palms grow side-by-side with fir trees – perplexes not the resourceful Swiss family; they draw from it nourishment, entertainment and comfort, as well as valuable insight.
Spitting in public places; occupying all the benches in the parks, thus depriving old people of seats; playing your piano in an apartment after ten o’clock at night; handling fruit, poultry or game in market stalls; putting more people in an elevator than it can hold; employing a man until he is old and then throwing him out and giving his place to a younger man; baking cakes and pastry at home; selling or using cream; dancing during war – if as a Wilhelmine German you took a notion to do any these things, you risked incurring the wrath of the Reich, for it had ruled them strictly Verboten.
An inveterate traveler and watercolor painter of landscapes, architecture and street scenes, Walter Frederick Roofe Tyndale searched the world for fittingly picturesque subjects, wandering from his native Bruges to the far shores of Morocco, Egypt, Sicily, the Italian peninsula, and eventually Japan.