John Baptist Belzoni
JOHN BAPTIST BELZONI was born about 1780, at Padua, in Italy, and passed the greater part of his youth at Rome, where he was preparing himself to become a monk, when, he observes, the sudden entry of the French into that city, altered the course of my education, and being destined to travel, I have been a wanderer ever since.' In 1803, he visited England and married; when, having but scanty means of subsistence, he went to Scotland and Ireland, and exhibited, at various theatres, a series of experiments in hydraulics, a science to which he had devoted much of his time in Italy. Finding, however, that he received but little profit from these exhibitions, he determined on a public display of his strength, which he put forth in feats that astonished and attracted crowded audiences wherever he appeared. Though, at that time, very young, he was six feet seven inches in height; and such was his elephantine power, that he could walk across the stage with no less than two-and-twenty persons attached by straps to different parts of his body. In 1812, he exhibited at Lisbon and at Madrid; and sailed afterwards to Malta, whence, he set out for Cairo, for the purpose of making a machine for raising water out of the Nile to water the bashaw's gardens. Whilst on his way to the palace, he received so severe a blow on the leg, that he was confined to his bed thirty days before he could be introduced to the bashaw; who merely observed, on being told of Belzoni's wound, that such accidents could not be avoided where there were troops.'
Having concluded an agreement to make a machine which should enable one ox to raise as much water as was drawn previously by four, he, after much difficulty and obstruction on the part of those whose cattle were employed in the gardens, completed his work, and demonstrated with great success, a practical experiment of its power. The opposition, however, of the Arabs to the use of his machine, which they had materially damaged, induced Belzoni to relinquish his projects concerning it, and to undertake, at the suggestion of Mr. Salt and Mr. Burckhardt, an expedition to Thebes, for the purpose of removing an enormous bust, to which they had given the name of the younger Memnon.'
It has been erroneously stated,' says Belzoni, that I was regularly employed by Mr. Salt for the purpose of bringing the colossal bust from Thebes to Alexandria. I positively deny that I was ever engaged by him in any shape whatever, either by words or writing, as I have proofs of the case being on the contrary. When I ascended the Nile, the first and second time, I had no other idea in my mind, but that I was making researches for antiquities which were to be placed in the British Museum; and it is naturally to be supposed, that I would not have made these excursions, had I been aware that all I found was for the benefit of a gentleman whom I never had the pleasure to see before in my life.'