Please join me on a brief excursion into 17th Century Europe, on a trip to meet one of the most fascinating yet unknown characters in history: Matthew Buchinger.
He was a man of many interests and a masterful artist in many crafts. He was an elite calligrapher, a genius at engraving and a talented sketch artist. He was an accomplished musician who played many instruments including the flute, bagpipe, trumpet and more, and a craftsman that created his own instruments. And of course, he was an unbelievable magician, able to amaze his audiences with displays of mesmerizing sleight of hand.
And he had no arms or legs.
Born ninth of nine children in Anspach Germany in 1674, Buchinger had two long, fin-like extremities in lieu of normal arms and absolutely no legs. As an adult he stood two-and-a-half feet tall. In spite of his severe disabilities, he lived an exciting and full life, entertained many royal courts and had a vicarious social existence.
He was married four times, fathered at least 11 legitimate children, and had more mistresses than a sane person can fathom; he was renowned for his female exploits. His first wife took to mistreating him, perhaps due to his excessively wandering eyes, and began beating the seemingly defenseless invalid. Perhaps thinking that he would not seek retribution, she quickly learned her lesson. One day on the street, after another rash of abusive behavior from her, he snapped and, as one author put it, “…once his anger was so much aroused, that he sprung upon her like a fury, got her down, and buffeted her with his stumps within an inch of her life.”
Buchinger was a celebrity during his time, had an iron will and died very well off at the age of 65 in Cork, Ireland. Few people with all of their appendages intact are able to capitalize on life as well as he did.