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A lavishly illustrated manuscript from the eighteenth century now being published for the first time, Thomas Hammond's memoirs are a major discovery. Hammond was a self-educated but remarkably gifted writer with a knack for seizing unlikely opportunities for adventure. We follow this abandoned waif as he embarks on a long journey through bewildering foreign lands—working by turns as a stableboy, jockey, servant to French nobles, itinerant circus rider, and entertainment entrepreneur—only to recover his home and father at the end of his travels.
Personal narratives by the eighteenth century’s non-elites are exceedingly rare, and Hammond’s memoir provides a wonderfully vivid depiction of the texture of everyday life in that era. Possessed of a dry wit, Hammond can be hilarious, offering uproarious descriptions of stableboy pranks or the highly unsanitary conditions of a Portuguese inn; but he can also be compellingly frank about his emotions, revealing how deprived of love he felt as a young boy, describing climbing into an oven for warmth after having lost his mother to smallpox, or earnestly recounting how he fell in love with his master's (supposed) wife.
This edition includes numerous illustrations from the original manuscript—Hammond’s own hand-drawn travel maps and depictions of bullfighting as well as various images of the equestrian life collected by Hammond, many in brilliant color.