Peter, The Wild Boy

On  the continent of Europe, portions of which are interspersed with vast forests and uncultivated tracts, various individuals of the human species have, at different times, been discovered in a state no better than that of the brute creation. One of the most singular of these unfortunate creatures was Peter the Wild Boy, whose origin and history, previous to his discovery, must remain forever a secret. He was found in the year 1725, in the woods, about twenty-five miles from Hanover, in Germany. He walked on all fours, climbed trees like a squirrel, and fed on grass and moss.

When he was taken, he was about thirteen years old, and could not speak. He soon made his escape into the woods, where he concealed himself amid the branches of a tree, which was sawed down to recover him. He was brought over to England, in the year 1726, and exhibited to the king and many of the nobility. He received the title of Peter the Wild Boy, which name he ever afterwards retained.

He appeared to have scarcely any ideas, was uneasy at being obliged to wear clothes, and could not be induced to lie in a bed, but sat and slept in a corner of a room, whence it was conjectured that he used to sleep on a tree for security against wild beasts. He was committed to the care of Dr. Arbuthnot, at whose house he was to have been baptized; but, notwithstanding all the doctor's pains, he never could bring the wild youth to the use of speech, or the pronunciation of more than a very few words. As every effort to give him an education was found to be vain, he was placed with a farmer at a small distance from London, and a pension was allowed him by the king, which he enjoyed till his death, which occurred in 1785, at the age of about seventy-three years.

Peter was low of stature, and always wore his beard. He occasionally wandered away from his place of residence, but either returned or was brought back. He was never mischievous; was remarkable for his strength; became fond of finery and dress, and at last, was taught to love beer and gin. He was a lover of music, and acquired several tunes. He also became able to count as far as twenty, and could answer a few simple questions. He learned to eat the food of the family where he lived, but in his excursions, he subsisted upon raw herbage, berries and roots of young trees. He was evidently not an idiot, but seemed to continue in a state of mental infancy, thinking of little beyond his physical wants, and never being able to conceive of the existence of a God.