‘The tricks he plays at cups and balls,
Tis wrong in any man, who calls,
Them slight of hand, as he gives out,
Their slight of stumps, and are no doubt …
I’m sure that’s the worst thing about his life,
that he had to suffer these terrible poems.’
– from a handbill dating from 1726
Matthew Buchinger was born in Anspach, Germany in 1674 and was one of the most well known performers of his day. He played over a dozen musical instruments, danced the hornpipe, and was an expert calligrapher, magician, and bowler, built magnificent ships in bottles, and stunning marksman with a pistol. All of those accomplishments are even more impressive when you realize that he had no arms or legs and stood only 28 inches high.
His skills certainly seemed to impress ladies as he was married at least four times and fathered eleven children. There is a story that one of his wives was abusive and insulting – he put up with the behavior until he simply snapped and he knocked her to the ground and thrashed her publicly. The event was immortalized in the form of a caricature published in the newspaper the following day.
During his lifetime, Buchinger performed for many kings – three successive kings of Germany – and several times before King George.
He died in Cork, Ireland in 1732