Monday, February 15, 2010

In The Old Days Of The New Orleans Province, This Jesuit Was Missioned To The Maneaters

The literature of Louisiana has to this day remained bilingual. It speaks with two tongues. We will begin with the French language, because it chronologically precedes the other and claims the privilege of seniority. Among the most distinguished writers of that category is Etienne Bernard Alexandre Viel (here) (here) (here) (here) (here) and (here) , born in Louisiana in 1736.
He was educated in France by the Jesuits, became a very learned member of that religious order, and as a missionary resided several years in that part of the colony to which had been given the name of Attakapas, (here) (here) (here) (here) (here) (here) (here) and (here), meaning men-eaters, because it was originally inhabited by savages who had that peculiar gastronomic taste.
There he kept an humble school and ministered mental improvement and spiritual consolations to the motley and limited population intrusted to his care, and by which he was beloved. He finally returned to France and was employed in the College of Juilly, where he had been reared. He is known in the annals of literature for his translation into French of the "Ars Poetica" (The Art of Poetry) and of several odes of Horace.
As a Latin scholar he could hardly be surpassed, and he translated Fenelon's Telemachus into verses of Virgilian purity and elegance. I remember having seen in my youth, in the hands of the principal of the now defunct College of Orleans, a specimen of a magnificent edition of this poem, published in France at lavish cost by some of the most distinguished men of France, who had been the pupils of the author and who were desirous to give him this proof of their esteem.
This literary Louisianian died, 85 years old, in 1821, at the college where he had been educated and where he continued to teach to the very last day of his existence.

Link (here)

Hand drawing of an Attakapas Indian from 1735 (here)

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