Laperouse eBook

Sir Ernest Scott
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 66 pages of information about Laperouse.

It is interesting to note that descendants of Captain Dillon are residents of Sydney to this day.

Chapter X.

THE FAME OF LAPEROUSE.

Intellectually, and as a navigator, Laperouse was a son of James Cook, and he himself would have rejoiced to be so described.  The allusions to his predecessor in his writings are to be numbered by scores, and the note of reverent admiration is frequently sounded.  He followed Cook’s guidance in the management of his ships, paying particular attention to the diet of his crews.  He did not succeed in keeping scurvy at bay altogether, but when the disease made its appearance he met it promptly by securing fresh vegetable food for the sufferers, and was so far successful that when he arrived in Botany Bay his whole company was in good health.

The influence of the example and experience of Cook may be illustrated in many ways, some of them curious.  We may take a point as to which he really had little to fear; but he knew what had occurred in Cook’s case and he was anxious that the same should not happen to him.  The published story of Cook’s first South Sea Voyage, as is well known, was not his own.  His journal was handed over to Dr. Hawkesworth, a gentleman who tried to model his literary style on that of Dr. Johnson, and evolved a pompous, big-drum product in consequence.  Hawkesworth garnished the manly, straightforward navigator’s simple and direct English with embellishments of his own.  Where Cook was plain Hawkesworth was ornate; where Cook was sensible Hawkesworth was silly; where Cook was accurate, Hawkesworth by stuffing in his own precious observations made the narrative unreliable, and even ridiculous.  In fact, the gingerbread Johnson simply spoiled Cook.

Dr. Johnson was by no means gratified by the ponderous prancings of his imitator.  We learn from Boswell that when the great man met Captain Cook at a dinner given by the President of the Royal Society, he said that he “was much pleased with the conscientious accuracy of that celebrated circumnavigator, who set me right as to many of the exaggerated accounts given by Dr. Hawkesworth of his voyages.”  Cook himself was annoyed by the decorating of his story, and resented the treatment strongly.

Laperouse knew this, and was very anxious that nobody in France should Hawkesworthify him.  He did not object to being carefully edited, but he did not want to be decorated.  He wrote excellent French narrative prose, and his work may be read with delight.  Its qualities of clarity, picturesqueness and smoothness, are quite in accord with the fine traditions of the language.  But, as it was likely that part of the history of his voyage might be published before his return, he did not want it to be handed over to anybody who would trick it out in finery, and he therefore wrote the following letter: 

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Laperouse from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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