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Donatti, Louis

Entry updated 11 August 2018. Tagged: Author.

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According to the evidence of his only novel, a Slovenia-born functionary and author (1781-1852) who in 1805 served in a junior position with Sir William Hoste (1780-1828), a fabulously successful naval Captain in the Napoleonic Wars; from 1806-1831 he was with the British Commissariat in Messina, and for some years in the 1830s in Canada as "deputy-assistant-commissary-general", an experience which caused him to suggest that any future Canadian government should be entirely bilingual; he is almost certainly the Louis Antony [also given as Anthony] Donatti, a language tutor resident in the UK who published German grammars as late as 1843. This and other material features in what purports to be his memoirs, The Orphan of Novogorod, an Illyrian Tale: By an Ex-Officer of the British Commissariat (1841), though it is difficult to distinguish fact from fiction in the text.

Over a third of the book comprises the first-person narrative – recounted at third hand to Donatti – of the eponymous "orphan", who takes a three-week Fantastic Journey first by Underground river (replete with human-headed eels and other Monsters) and then in a zeppelin-like Balloon, progressing from Carniola (near Trieste) to a vast Utopia, possibly an Island in the Atlantic Ocean. Here, in the city of New Jerusalem, he discovers a society based on an exceedingly humane form of Christianity (see Religion), and blessed by medical science (and other Inventions) which enable its inhabitants to live for centuries. After years there, he is blown for days by a "subterranean hurrican" [sic] through further caverns ("vast armies" can be heard marching far below) into less attractive lands, and eventually returns to the normal world.

The book ends with a letter from Donatti recommending to the British army that the conduct of war in Canada required the use of "steam carriages" for transport when rivers were iced-over, and that soldiers should be trained to engage in what sounds very much like guerrilla warfare. [JC]

Louis Antony Donatti

Arthur Louis Donatti, Louis Anthony Donatti and Anthon Louis Donatti have also been given as names for this author.

born Neustadtl [ie Novogorod], Duchy of Carniola [now Republic of Slovenia]: 1781 [almost certainly a true date]

died London: 1 April 1852



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