circumambulator of the globe

John “Walking” Stewart (1747 – 1822) was an English traveller and philosopher.

image found here

He’d shipped out to Madras as a young clerk for the East India Company in 1763, only to decide that – as he announced brusquely in a resignation letter – “he was born for nobler pursuits than to be a copier of invoices to a company of grocers, haberdashers and cheese mongers“. 

image found here

And he was right: joining an Indian prince as a secretary, he rose through the ranks to become an army general and a chief minister for the Nabob of Arcot – before  throwing it all over to walk alone across Persia, Abyssinia, Arabia and Africa before wandering into every European country as far east as Russia.

Nabob of Arcot found here

When he reached London he was dubbed by the incredulous press “Walking Stewart”. Never was there a more apt name; for he later hiked through Lapland and down into central Asia, and after sailing to New York walked all the way down to Paraguay. 

Paraguayan pineapple found here

He wouldn’t talk of his fabulous travels; instead he was always distributing bizarre pamphlets he’d privately printed, bearing titles like “The Roll of a Tennis Ball Through the Moral World“. Stewart’s works exhibit a naive arrogance, frequently asserting that their author is the “only child of nature” to have ever lived.

Vintage Child of Nature found here

The few who could read past their strange diction and publication date – for Stewart had invented his own calendar – found all sorts of curious ideas inside. He saw nothing wrong with prostitution, and considered it a typical city business like lamp lighting or driving a taxi, indeed, he saw little wrong with sex, and believed that there should be promiscuous intercourse so that the population might not become redundant.

unusual calendars found here

Stewart had a notion of preserving his pamphlets for posterity. He asked that his readers, when done reading him, bury his books in their gardens at a depth of seven or eight feet. They were to tell no one else of the location; but on their deathbeds they were to breathe the secret to a trusted few. These fellows would keep the burial place secret until their own deathbeds years later, and would communicate it again – down through the centuries, a secret society of philosophers passing down the sacred memory of the location of Stewart’s writings. 

buried books found here

But it occurred to him that his works might eventually prove unreadable because the English language might one day molder away. Thereupon he decided that first his readers should translate the works into Latin and then bury them. 

After retiring from travelling, Stewart eventually settled in London where he held philosophical soirées and earned a reputation as one of the city’s celebrated eccentrics. He was often seen in public wearing a threadbare Armenian military uniform—a souvenir, one assumes, from his many adventures.

Armenian children in army uniforms found here

Published in: on January 22, 2012 at 7:58 am  Comments (48)  
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  1. I always translate my books into Latin before burying them. That’s just common sense.

    • I’ve been translating into pidgin English. now I have to dig them all up and change everything to Latin.

      • I took Latin strictly so I wouldn’t have to translate into it. Everything we did was to translate it to English.

  2. I like the idea of burying books….not least because my ex- mother-in-law is a Librarian and could perhaps be asked to look after them……

  3. Poor little soldiers.

    • They look so very young don’t they?

  4. That’s certainly one way to ensure that anything you write is never read by anybody, ever.

    I do agree with him though that the English language may be in danger of extinction. I think if you were doing this translation thing now, text speak may be a better choice than Latin.

    • I find Latin more comprehensible than text speak.

  5. So it’s like a time capsule in book form kind of?

    I guess he didn’t think about what would happen if a reader died in a freak accident and then the book never got dug up.

    • there were a lot of possibilities he didn’t take into consideration

  6. Yes, he was an interesting fellow; a real eccentric. He has quite a good Wiki entry (which hints at his death) and I had a book that mentioned him.

    • this excerpt is from wikipedia (link at top of page). I read about him in a book about Thomas Paine. Is that the same book you had Dinah?

      • If you mean Tom Paine, American Revolutionary writer,probably. Certainly, in some book about eccentrics and free -thinkers.We need more like those chaps. The current crop of politicians is dishwater dull!

  7. So much I loved about this post – I want to read that pamphlet on the roll of the tennis ball. x

  8. A very interesting man.

  9. Quite the rags to riches story. Clearly, the guy had an ego that helped him along through life. I wish I had some of that – not that I’m going to bury my paintings underground and hope that others will preserve them…

  10. I wonder if anyone had ever found any of those buried books ( or at least what remains of them)

  11. So he was born to be wild …

  12. I’ve always thought a calender made from a colander would be rather fun. Line one with paper and write the dates over each hole and then prick them everyday … should be a winner.

  13. Wow. He worked for a Nabob, walked to Lappland and Patagonia, believed in promiscuous intercourse, operated by his own calender and wore an ex Armenian uniform? John is seriously my new hero. Even by 18c standards he was a truly entertaining nutter.

  14. I.m surprised he wasn’t also the inventor of the Odor Eater!

  15. Never mind translating them into Latin, I wouldn’t have thought books buried eight feet under the soil would last for long. Surely they’d be rapidly eaten by creepy crawlies like earthworms and woodlice?

    I just tried rolling a tennis ball through the moral world but it got stuck on a big lump of naughtiness.

  16. And all this time I thought the cheesemongers were blessed.

  17. One should never allow a law, edict or even a moré which may make the population redundant!

  18. I often feel I was born for nobler pursuits, myself.

    • I know that feeling Nicole

  19. Quite a walker, but more than a little whacked.

  20. i had a Nabob once… but i let it grow out, as it wasn’t particularly flattering…

    • LOL @ Daisy.

      • Yep! too funny

  21. Hello Nursey dear,

    I am a little concerned that you are now regularly showing pictures of young women exposing their front bottoms. And some of them do seem to need some attention to their Lady Gardens – which should, in any event, not be on public display.

    • I think the young lady in the photo above keeps her lady garden very trim

  22. First of all, don’t listen to Camilla. There’s an audience for that sort of content.

    Is the the Johnnie Walker of the scotch fame? I’m too lazy to Google it.

    • Stop jesting with me UB 🙂

  23. Nothing wrong with wearing an Armenian army uniform. The Armenians set up partisan groups who fought the germans as they tried to advance through soviet Russia. A proud Englishman would see the uniform as a symbol of resistance to the germans quest for illegitimate Territorial gains. I am sure Stewart would have remarked more than a few time “First left, Then third reich” when his guests were looking for the wc in his home.
    Why not? they started it!

    • ???

      • British by birth, English by the grace of God.

        Thank you for such a nice blog 🙂

  24. I’m sure all that walking must mess with your brains. I prefer to take the omnibus

    • I prefer to lie on the couch

  25. ‘Buy four or more pamphlets at regular club prices and we’ll throw in this handy burial depth guide as our free gift to you!’

  26. I didn’t realize that pubic hair was called a lady garden, or that it needed any attention other than regular washing. I’m so naive. I, for one, am totally not offended by your pictures of full frontal nudity, especially when exhibited by such comely models.

    I want to walk all over the world too. I wonder how you fund such activities? Because it seems to me that Walking Steward must have been quite well funded in order to make such extensive walking tours.

    • Maybe the Nabob left him some money.

  27. Armenian children in uniform – no boy scouts on a hike here. The persecution of this ethnic group to near extinction throughout history necessitated such for survival against enemies committed to their extermination as a people.

  28. My blog should be translated into Latin. I wonder what the Latin word for “blog” is … ?

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