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Psalmanazar, George

PSALMANAZAR, GEORGE (c. 1679-1763), French adventurer, was born about 1679, probably in Languedoc. According to his own account he was sent in his seventh year to a free school taught by two Franciscan monks, after which he was educated in a Jesuit college " in an archiepiscopal city." On leaving college he became a private tutor. He assumed personations in order to obtain money, his first being that of a pilgrim to Rome. Afterwards he travelled through Germany, Brabant and Flanders in the character of a Japanese convert. At Liege he enlisted in the Dutch service, shortly after which he posed as an unconverted Japanese. At Sluys he made the acquaintance of a Scottish chaplain, by whom he was brought over to England and introduced to the bishop of London. Having undergone conversion to Christianity, he was employed by the bishop to translate the Church catechism into what was supposed to be the Japanese language. In 1704 he published a fictitious Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, and was shortly afterwards sent to Oxford. In 1707 he published Dialogue between a Japanese and a Formosan. There also appeared, without date, An Inquiry into the Objections against George P Salmanazar of Formosa, with George P Salmanazar's Answer. His pretensions were from the beginning doubted by many, and when exposure was inevitable he made a full confession. Throughout the rest of his life he exhibited, according to Dr Samuel Johnson, as reported by Mrs Piozzi, " a piety, penitence, and virtue exceeding almost what we read as wonderful in the lives of the saints." Psalmanazar published Essays on Scriptural Subjects (1753), contributed various articles to the Ancient Universal History, and completed Palmer's History of Printing. He died in London on the 3rd of May 1763. His memoirs appeared in 1764 under the title, Memoirs of . . . commonly known by the name of George Psalmanazar, but do not disclose his real name or the place of his birth.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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