Truly they are men supreme in discipline, in beauty of equipment; and the shortest man of them rises, I think, towards seven feet, some are nearly nine feet high. Men from all countries; a hundred and odd come annually, as we saw, from Russia,--a very precious windfall: the rest have been collected, crimped, purchased out of every European country, at enormous expense, not to speak of other trouble to his Majesty. James Kirkman, an Irish recruit of good inches, cost him 1,200 pounds before he could be got inveigled, shipped and brought safe to hand. The documents are yet in existence; [Forster,
Here, in reference to one other of those poor Giants, is an Anecdote from Fassmann (who is very full on this subject of the Giants; abstruse Historical Fassmann, often painfully cited by us): a most small Anecdote, but then an indisputably certain one; --which brings back to us, in a strange way, the vanished Time and its populations; as the poorest authentic wooden lucifer may do, kindling suddenly, and' peopling the void Night for moments, to the seeing eye!--
Fassmann, a very dark German literary man, in obsolete costume and garniture, how living or what doing we cannot guess, found himself at Paris, gazing about, in the year 1713; where, among other things, the Fair of St. Germain was going on. Loud, large Fair of St. Germain, "which lasts from Candlemas to the Monday before Easter;" and Fassmann one day took a walk of contemplation through the same. Much noise, gesticulation, little meaning. Show-booths, temporary theatres, merry-andrews, sleight-of-hand men; and a vast public, drinking, dancing, gambling, flirting, as its wont is. Nothing new for us there; new only that it all lies five generations from us now. Did "the Old Pretender," who was then in his expectant period, in this same village of St. Germain, see it too, as Fassmann did? And Louis XIV., he is at Versailles; drooping fast, very dull to his Maintenon. And our little Fritz in Berlin is a child in arms;--and the world is all awake as usual, while Fassmann strolls through this noisy inanity of show-booths, in the year 1713.
Strolling along, Fassmann came upon a certain booth with an enormous Picture hung aloft in front of it: "Picture of a very tall man, in HEYDUC livery, coat reaching to his ankles, in grand peruke, cap and big heron-plume, with these words, 'LE GEANT ALLEMAND (German Giant),' written underneath. Partly from curiosity, partly "for country's sake," Fassmann expended twopence; viewed the gigantic fellow-creature; admits he had never seen one so tall; though "Bentenrieder, the Imperial Diplomatist," thought by some to be the tallest of men, had come athwart him once. This giant's name was Muller; birthplace the neighborhood of Weissenfels;--"a Saxon like myself. He had a small German Wife, not half his size. He made money readily, showing himself about, in France, England, Holland;"--and Fassmann went his way, thinking no more of the fellow.--But now, continues Fassmann:--
"Coming to Potsdam, thirteen years after, in the spring of 1726, by his Majesty's order, to"--in fact, to read the Newspapers to his Majesty, and be generally useful, chiefly in the Tobacco-College, as we shall discover,--"what was my surprise to find this same 'GEANT ALLEMAND' of St. Germain ranked among the King's Grenadiers! No doubt of the identity: I renewed acquaintance with the man; his little German Wife was dead; but he had got an English one instead, an uncommonly shifty creature. They had a neat little dwelling-house [as most of the married giants had], near the Palace: here the Wife sold beer [brandy not permissible on any terms], and lodged travellers;-- I myself have lodged there on occasion. In the course of some years, the man took swelling in the legs; good for nothing as a grenadier; and was like to fall heavy on society. But no, his little Wife snatched him up, easily getting his discharge; carried him over with her to England, where he again became a show-giant, and they were doing very well, when last heard of,"-- in the Country-Wakes of George II.'s early time. And that is the real Biography of one Potsdam Giant, by a literary gentleman who had lodged with him on occasion. [Fassmann, pp. 723-730.]
The pay of these sublime Footguards is greatly higher than common; they have distinguished privileges and treatment: on the other hand, their discipline is nonpareil, and discharge is never to be dreamt of, while strength lasts. Poor Kirkman, does he sometimes think of the Hill of Howth, and that he will never see it more? Kirkman, I judge, is not given to thought;--considers that he has tobacco here, and privileges and perquisites; and that Howth, and Heaven itself, is inaccessible to many a man.
FRIEDRICH WILHELM'S RECRUITING DIFFICULTIES.
Tall men, not for this regiment only, had become a necessary of life to Friedrich Wilhelm. Indispensable to him almost as his daily bread, To his heart there is no road so ready as that of presenting a tall man or two. Friedrich Wilhelm's regiments are now, by his exact new regulations, levied and recruited each in its own Canton, or specific district: there all males as soon as born are enrolled; liable to serve, when they have grown to years and strength. All grown men (under certain exceptions, as of a widow's eldest son, or of the like evidently ruinous cases) are liable to serve; Captain of the Regiment and AMTMANN of the Canton settle between them which grown man it shall be. Better for you not to be tall! In fact it is almost a kindness of Heaven to be gifted with some safe impediment of body, slightly crooked back or the like, if you much dislike the career of honor under Friedrich Wilhelm. A general shadow of unquiet apprehension we can well fancy hanging over those rural populations, and much unpleasant haggling now and then;--nothing but the King's justice that can be appealed to. King's justice, very great indeed, but heavily checked by the King's value for handsome soldiers.