Douville, Jean Baptiste
africa proceeded according time
DOUVILLE, JEAN BAPTISTE (1794–c. 1837), a French traveller born at Ilanibye, in the department of Manche, whose asserted discoveries in Africa have in large measure been relegated to the region of romance. At an early period his imagination seems to have been fired by narratives of travel and adventure ; and accordingly, when he fell heir to a wealthy relation, he at once proceeded to gratify his desire for personal acquaintance with foreign lands. He certainly wandered far and tvide ; and, according to his own profession, he visited India, Kashmir, Khorassau, Persia, Asia Minor, and many parts of Europe. After spending some time in Paris, and being admitted a member of the Societe de Geographie, he proceeded in 1826 to Brazii, with the intention apparently of carrying on scientific explorations : from this purpose, however, he was diverted by the political circumstances of the country ; and to replenish his funds he started business at Montevideo in partnership with a M. Laboissiere. Towards the close of the following year, probably in October, after a short residence at Rio Janeiro, he left Brazil for the Portuguese possessions on the we,st coast of Africa, where his presence in March 1828 is proved by the mention made of him in certain letters of Castillo Branco, the governor-general of Loanda. In May 1831 he reappeared in France, claiming to have pushed his explorations into the very heart of Africa, as far as the 27th degree of longitude E. of Greenwich, or, in other words, into what is now known as the great equatorial lake region. His story was readily accepted by the Societe de Geographie at Paris, which hastened to recognize his services by assigning him the great gold medal, and appointing him their secretary for the year 1832. On the publication of his narrative - Voyage au Congo et dans l'inVerieur de l'Afrique 6qui-noxiale - which occupied four large volumes, and was accompanied by au elaborate atlas, the public enthusiasm might well run high. In company with his wife (a sister of his old Montevidean partner), and attended by about 400 native porters, the happy- traveller had advanced from kingdom to kingdom rather like a monarch making a progross through his tributary states, distributing largesses and re,ceiving homage, than like a humble adventurer defraying his expenses from his private purse. Everything went smooth for a time ; the interior of Africa was de-scribed in text books and depicted in maps according to the discoveries of Douville; but in the August number of the Foreign, Quarterly Review for 1832 the inost sweeping charges of ignorance and fraud were launched against the author, and this attack was followed up in the Revue des Deux Mondes for November, by Thoinas Lacordaire, who asserted that, during part of the time which he clahned to have spent in Africa, Douville had been a familiar object in the streets of Rio Janeiro. Thu tide of popular favour turned ; and, in spite of the explanations furnished by Donville in Ala defence, 1832, and l'rente 2nois de ma vie, on quinze mois avant et pante mois aprs mon voyage au Congo, 1833, the general decision was openly against him. Mlle. A.udrun, a lady to whom he was about to he married, committed suicide from grief at the disgrace; and, after vainly attempting to obtain satisfaction from Lacordaire by duel, the poor adventurer hitnself withdrew in 1833 to Brazil, and proceeded to make explorations in the valley of the Amazon. According to Dr Gardner, in his Travels in ' the Interior of Brazil, he was murdered in 1837 on the banks of the Siio Francisco for charging too high for his medical assistance. His Brazilian manuscripts fell into the hands of M. S. Rang, by whom they were transmitted to M. Ferdinand Denis. While modern exploration has done nothing to support the wider pretensions of Douville, no less an authority than Captain Burton asserts that his descriptions uf the country of the Congo are life-like and picturesque ; that his observations on the anthropology, ceremonies, customs, and maladies of the people are remarkably accurate ; and that even the native words inserted into the text of his narrative " are for the most part given with unusual correctness."