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Audubon the Naturalist (Vol. I of II) A History of his Life and Time

Audubon the Naturalist (Vol. I of II)
A History of his Life and Time
Title: Audubon the Naturalist (Vol. I of II) A History of his Life and Time
Release Date: 2019-02-28
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Transcriber's Note:

Obvious typographical errors in the editor's text have been corrected. Inconsistent or incorrect accents, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation in the original documents and quotes were left as printed.

The following apparent spelling inconsistencies were left as printed:

  • Father Stanilaus and Stanislaus
  • Trumbull and Trumball
  • Gwathway's and Gnathway's Hotel
  • Geoffroy and Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire.

On page 59, March 1749 is an apparent error.

On page 69, alcade should perhaps be alcalde.

On page 370, "as John as concluded" is a possible printer's error.

On page 371, "I now collecting Letters" is a possible printer's error.

On page 372, "as never reachd thee" is a possible printer's error.

In footnote 23, "Formon" is the spelling used in the letter printed in this volume.

This is the first volume of a two volume work. Linked cross-references to Volume II are designed to work when the book is read on line.

Download Vol. I from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/58983/58983-h/58983-h.htm

Download Vol. II from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/58984/58984-h/58984-h.htm



John J. Audubon






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NEW YORK                  LONDON

Copyright, 1917, by

Printed in the United States of America




The origin of the gifted ornithologist, animal painter, andwriter, known to the world as John James Audubon, has remaineda mystery up to the present time. In now lifting theveil which was cast over his early existence, I feel that I servethe cause of historical truth; at the same time it is possibleto do fuller justice to all most intimately concerned with thestory of his life and accomplishments.

The present work is in reality the outcome of what was firstundertaken as a holiday recreation in the summer of 1903.While engaged upon a research of quite a different character,I reread, with greater care, Audubon's Ornithological Biography,and after turning the leaves of his extraordinary illustrations,it seemed to me most strange that but little should beknown of the making of so original and masterful a character.As I was in England at the time some investigations wereundertaken in London, but, as might have been expected, withrather barren results. After my return to America in thefollowing year the search was continued, but as it provedequally fruitless here, the subject was set aside. Not until1913, when this investigation was resumed in France, did Imeet with success.

Every man, however poor or inconsequential he may appearor be, is supposed to possess an estate, and every manof affairs is almost certain to leave behind him domestic, professional,or commercial papers, which are, in some degree, amark of his attainments and an indication of his characterand tastes. In the summer of 1913 I went to France insearch of the personal records of the naturalist's father, LieutenantJean Audubon, whose home had been at Nantes and inthe little commune of Couëron, nine miles below that city, onviiithe right bank of the Loire. The part which LieutenantAudubon played in the French Revolution was fully revealedin his letters, his reports to the Central Committee, and numerousother documents which are preserved in the archivesof the Préfecture at Nantes; while complete records of hisnaval career both in the merchant marine and governmental service(service pour l'État) were subsequently obtained at Paris;but at Nantes his name had all but vanished, and little couldbe learned of his immediate family, which had been nearlyextinct in France for over thirty years.

Again the quest seemed likely to prove futile until a letter,which I received through the kindness of Mr. Louis Goldschmidt,then American Consul at Nantes, to M. GiraudGangie, conservateur of the public library in that city,brought a response, under date of December 29, 1913, informingme that two years before that time, he had met bychance in the streets of Couëron a retired notary who assuredhim that he held in possession numerous exact records of JeanAudubon and his family. The sage Henry Thoreau once remarkedthat you might search long and diligently for a rarebird, and then of a sudden surprise the whole family at dinner.So it happened in this case, and since these manuscript records,sought by many in vain on this side of the Atlantic, are soimportant for this history, the reader is entitled to an accountof them.

Upon corresponding with the gentleman in question, M. L.Lavigne, I was informed that the documents in his possessionwere of the most varied description, comprising letters, wills,deeds, certificates of births, baptisms, adoptions, marriagesand deaths, to the number, it is believed, of several hundredpieces. This unique and extraordinary collection of Audubonianrecords had been slumbering in a house in the commune ofCouëron called "Les Tourterelles" ("The Turtle Doves") fornearly a hundred years, or since the death of the naturalist'sstepmother in 1821.

Since I was unable to judge of the authenticity of thedocuments or to visit France at that time, my friend, ProfessorixGustav G. Laubscher, who happened to be in Paris,engaged in investigating Romance literary subjects, kindlyconsented to go to Couëron for the purpose of inspecting them.Monsieur Lavigne had already prepared for me, and still held,a number of photographs of the most important manuscripts,which are now for the first time reproduced, and, with theaid of a stenographer, in the course of two or three days theywere able to transcribe the most essential and interesting partsof this voluminous material. But at that very moment sinisterclouds were blackening the skies of Europe, and my friendwas obliged to leave his task unfinished and hasten to Paris;when he arrived in that city, on the memorable Saturday ofAugust 1, 1914, orders for the mobilization of troops hadbeen posted; it was some time before copies of the manuscriptswere received from Couëron, and he left the French capitalto return to America.

These documents came into the hands of Monsieur Lavignethrough his wife, who was a daughter and legatee of GabrielLoyen du Puigaudeau, the second, son of Gabriel Loyen duPuigaudeau, the son-in-law of Lieutenant and Mme. Jean Audubon.Gabriel Loyen du Puigaudeau, the second, who died atCouëron in 1892, is thought to have destroyed all letters of thenaturalist which had been in possession of the family andwhich were written previous to 1820, when his relations withthe elder Du Puigaudeau were broken off; not a line in thehandwriting of John James Audubon has been preserved atCouëron.

In June and July, 1914, Dr. Laubscher had repeatedlyapplied to the French Foreign Office, through the AmericanEmbassy at Paris, for permission to examine the dossier ofJean Audubon in the archives of the Department of theMarine, in order to verify certain dates in his naval careerand to obtain the personal reports which he submitted uponhis numerous battles at sea, but at that period of strain itwas impossible to gain further access to the papers sought.

Having told the story of the way in which these uniqueand important records came into my possession, I wish to expressxmy gratitude to Professor Laubscher for his able cooperationin securing transcriptions and photographs, and toMonsieur Lavigne for his kind permission to use them, as wellas for his careful response to numerous questions which arosein the course of the investigation.

In dealing with letters and documents, of whatever kind,in manuscript, I have made it my invariable rule to reproducethe form and substance of the record as it exists as exactlyas possible; in translations, however, no attempt has beenmade to preserve any minor idiosyncrasies of the writer. Thesource of all scientific, literary or historical material previouslypublished is indicated in footnotes, and the reader will findcopious references to hitherto unpublished documents, whichin their complete and original form, with or without translations,together with an annotated Bibliography, have beengathered in Appendices at the end of Volume II. For convenienceof reference each chapter has been treated as a unitso far as the footnotes are concerned, and the quoted author'sname, with the title of his work in addition to the bibliographicnumber, has been given in nearly every instance.

Besides the many coadjutors whose friendly aid has beengladly acknowledged in the body of this work, I now wish tooffer my sincere thanks, in particular, to the Misses MariaR. and Florence Audubon, granddaughters of the naturalist,who have shown me many courtesies, and to the Hon. MyronT. Herrick, late American Ambassador to France, for hiskindly assistance in obtaining documentary transcripts fromthe Department of the Marine at Paris. I am under specialobligations also to the librarians of the British Museum and OxfordUniversity, the Linnæan and Zoölogical Societies of London,the Jardin des Plantes at Paris, the Public Libraries ofBoston and New York, and the libraries of the Historical Societiesof New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Louisiana, aswell as to the Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoölogyof Harvard University, and to the American Museum ofNatural History in New York City, for photographs of paintingsand other objects, for permission to read or copy manuscripts,xiand for favors of various sorts. Furthermore, I amindebted to the good offices of Mr. Ferdinand Lathrop Mayer,Secretary of Legation, Port-au-Prince, and of M. Fontaine,American Consular Agent at Les Cayes, Haiti, for a seriesof photographs made expressly to represent Les Cayes as itappears today. I would also acknowledge the courtesy of theCorporation of Trinity Parish, New York, through Mr.Pendleton Dudley, for an excellent photograph of the AudubonMonument.

I cannot express too fully my appreciation of the heartyresponse which the publishers of these volumes have given toevery question concerned with their presentation in an adequateand attractive form, and particularly to Mr. FrancisG. Wickware, of D. Appleton and Company, to whose knowledge,skill, and unabated interest the reader, like myself, is indebtedin manifold ways.

My friend, Mr. Ruthven Deane, well known for his investigationsin Auduboniana and American ornithological literature,has not only read the proofs of the text, but has generouslyplaced at my disposal many valuable notes, references,pictures, letters and other documents, drawn from his ownresearches and valuable personal collections. I wish toexpress in the most particular manner also my appreciationof the generous spirit in which Mr. JosephY. Jeanes has opened the treasures in his possession,embracing not only large numbers of hitherto unpublishedletters, but an unrivaled collection of early unpublished Auduboniandrawings, for the enrichment and embellishment ofthese pages. For the loan or transcription of other originalmanuscript material, or for supplying much needed data ofevery description, I am further most indebted to Mr. WeltonH. Rozier, of St. Louis; Mr. Tom J. Rozier, of Ste. Geneviève;Mr. C. A. Rozier, of St. Louis; the Secretary of the LinnæanSociety of London, through my friend, Mr. George E. Bullen,of St. Albans; Mr. Henry R. Rowland of the Buffalo Societyof Natural Sciences, of Buffalo; Mr. William Beer, ofthe Howard Memorial Library, of New Orleans; and Mr. W.xiiH. Wetherill, of Philadelphia. For the use of new photographicand other illustrative material, I am further indebtedto Mr. Stanley Clisby Arthur, of the Conservation Commissionof Louisiana, and to Cassinia, the medium of publicationof the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club.

Through the kindness of Messrs. Charles Scribner's SonsI have been permitted to draw rather freely from Audubonand His Journals, by Miss Maria R. Audubon and ElliottCoues, and to reproduce three portraits therefrom; originalphotographs of two of these have been kindly supplied by Dr.R. W. Shufeldt. I also owe

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