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To Benjamin Franklin from ——— Foucher, Chevalier d’Obsonville, 27 May 1783

From ——— Foucher, Chevalier d’Obsonville8

ALS: American Philosophical Society

a paris ce 27e. may [1783]—f.B. St. denys no. 18.


Je n’ay point L’honneur d’etre Connu de votre excellence; mais en qualité d’homme pensant j’ay Crû vous devoir L’hommage d’un ecrit qui Semble offrir quelques points de vuë d’utilité generalle.9 Mde. La mqse. de Boisserolles soeur de Mr Law de lauriston1 et amie de Madame de Chaumont, avoit bien voulu me promettre de vous presenter elle même Cet exemplaire, mais un rhume Considerable Continuant à La retenir chez elle, je prens la liberté de vous l’envoyer directement.

Comme l’ouvrage a eté imprimé pendant que j’etois en province, il a besoin de beaucoup d’indulgence pour la partie typographique, et des negligences de Stile. Les Suffrages que j’ose ambitionner Sont ceux de personnes qui telles que votre excellence recherchent et appretient dans un voyageur non des formes, mais des faits et des observations.

Je desire garder l’anonyme vis à vis du public, cependant Je Saisis avec empressement cette occation de me dire avec une Consideration profondement Sentie et un profond respect De votre excellence Monsieur Le tres humble Et tres obeissant Serviteur


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8An adventurer turned naturalist and orientalist, Foucher d’Obsonville (1734–1802) left France when he was only 19 years old for what would become a 20-year sojourn in India and parts of the Middle East. He served various French officials on military and diplomatic missions, barely survived the plague and a near-shipwreck, escaped his share of wild beasts, and was a close observer of the local customs and fauna he encountered. Upon his return to Paris around 1774, he was examined by eminent physicians from the Invalides and the Faculty of Medicine, who confirmed that plague and guinea worm were the cause of his scarring. In 1783, at Buffon’s urging, he published the book enclosed with the present letter (from which many of these biographical details are drawn). His later publications included a translation of the Indian Vedas: DBF; Nouvelle biographie.

9Essais philosophiques sur les mœurs de divers animaux étrangers, avec des observations relatives aux principes & usages de plusieurs peuples … (Paris, 1783). Published anonymously and dedicated to Buffon, the work was arranged by animal; the accounts were based on Foucher’s own observations and experiences as recorded in his journals. It was announced in the Jour. de Paris on May 26 and extensively described on June 25. In 1784 an English translation by Thomas Holcroft was published in London, made with Foucher’s cooperation and identifying him as the author.

1Elizabeth-Jeanne Law, marquise de Boisserolles, was the sister of Jean Law, baron de Lauriston, whom Foucher served under and knew well. Law de Lauriston was the governor and commandant general of the French settlements in India, and was promoted to a maréchal de camp upon his return to Paris in 1780: DBF. For the marquise see the Dictionnaire de la noblesse, XI, 814.

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