The Baron – The Student Years (1723 – 1726)

Fig 7. Saturday night in the refectory of Heidelberg University, circa 1725. Note the munter of a barmaid with sprog sitting by the fire, thus putting the final kibosh on the proceedings.

The Baron attended Heidelberg University, and studied Literature. His specialist area was German humour, which naturally left him with a lot of free time. He took to wandering into other people’s lectures and became fascinated by the physical sciences.

He also took to drinking round the town and became a familiar figure in brawls and practical jokes. He was instrumental in forming the Maltopian Society, a secretive league whose one uniting purpose was the flinging of drugged midgets over the city walls using a catapult stolen from the city’s museum. This practice was heavily stamped down upon by the local burgomeister, Otto Von Dortdrüben. He was himself only a hair’s breadth over 3 feet tall, and it is probable that his campaign against the Maltopians was fuelled by fear lest he himself be slipped a Mickey and end up whistling over the ramparts.

As Von Dortdrüben’s campaign continued, the Baron’s scholastic interests grew. He attended many lectures by prominent scientists – still a novel profession at the time – and he became chiefly involved in the field of physics. This led to one of his most famous triumphs, when on 12 March 1724, he invented the bubble.

Fig 8. “The class would become hushed. He [the Baron] would take a deep breath and blow down his Sphero-Causator, and a perfect shimmering orb would result, along with rapturous applause!”
But outside his university activities, the Baron’s extra-curricular appetites for wantonness increased in leaps and bounds. His downfall finally came when he was caught with a midget in one hand, and jug of wine in the other, and another hand still on the launching mechanism of the purloined catapult.  (The number of hands involved has led many scholars to speculate about the existence of an accomplice.)

The city tried him on the 15th may 1724, but found that he wasn’t quite ready yet, so they set a date of August 14th. This left him with three months to concoct a watertight defence, so naturally he left it until the night before, and stayed up until 4 in the morning trying to work out a rational explanation. “They love it” seemed like a great idea at around 3am, but then he reasoned that he’d be better off winging it the next day having had some sleep, and so he turned in.

August 14th dawned, and the trial began. Due to his laundry not coming back in time, he was forced to attend the trial wearing a rather unflattering toga and a curtain.

Fig 9. The townspeople of Heidelberg show the Baron EXACTLY where it says in the city charter that you can’t lob midgets into the suburbs just because you feel like it.

Long story short – he lost, and was sent to prison for the maximum term that the law allowed – which turned out to be three days owing to a transcription error from the original Latin. (The same error that held that the entire planet was created in less time than it takes to get a new muffler ordered and fitted to a 16 year old Honda Accord.)

Eventually, the University grudgingly awarded him a degree, largely in order to get him off the campus, where he was playing merry hell with the rest of the students. He was awarded an honorary  Bachelor of Parties, (an unheard of degree at the time) and asked to vacate the premises.  This he did, and the next day took a ship for Milan. (Geography was never his strong point.)

Fig 10. The Baron’s graduation dinner. The Baron, in an advanced state of intoxication, stands on his chair “because it’s funny.”
Fig 11. The student Baron, having heard the chimes of the Last Orders bell, makes a pact with the Angel of the Lord that he will build a church to the glory of the Almighty, in return for a large glass of house red. Said church did not actually materialise, despite frequent letters from Heaven’s collection department.

 

 

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