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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Louis Bouton1   15 December 1871

Mauritius

15 Dec/1871

Mon cher Monsieur

C’est avec un grand plaisir que j’ai reçu la lettre que vous avez bien voulu m’écrire en réponse à la mienne.— l’aperçu que je vous ai donné de quelques familles de gèants des Seychelles remontait si vous vous en souvenez à cinquante ans & plus même—2 Les habitants de ces Iles n’avaient que de tres-rares communications avec les Mauriciens, déjà très avancés dans la voie qu’on est convenu d’appeler civilisation.

Les Seychellois vivaient donc presque isolés—on se mariait sans prêtre, puis-qu’il n’y en avait pas, & consequement les enfants n’étaient pas baptisés—

Plus tard quand de grands établissemts de sucrerie commencèrent à être fondés à Maurice—et qu’il fallait des bras pour mettre les terres en culture (la traite des esclaves étant définitivement abolie)—on décida les familles riches en esclaves des Seychelles, comme au temps d’Abraham & de Jacob, à immigrer à Maurice—3 on laissa la culture du coton & du tabac, & on arriva ici pour planter des cannes et faire du sucre—

En contact avec nous autres, le transformation a commencé et s’est opérée graduellement— dans les premiers temps quand on leur disait à table: “Will you take a glass of wine with me”— They would say: “I thank you Sir, I am not thirsty”—4

Un membre de notre Société royale de Maurice, le colonel Pike,5 consul américain vient de faire un tour dans ces Iles—& quand je lui ai donné communication de la lettre que je vous ai écrite, au sujet de la Sobriété des Seychellois— “Eh bien, oui— Je puis vous assurer que ce sont aujourd’hui de grands consommateurs—de rum & d’Aqua Vitae— Et en effet, ils ont du suivre notre exemple—la malle passe tous les mois aux Seychelles—& les buveurs d’eau de jadis—sont sortis de l’état de Nature—

Sur une île située comme est la nôtre, nous sommes temoins de beaucoup de ces transformations—et nous arrive des Indiens— des navires de guerre prennent quelquesfois des cargaisons de nègres que l’on transporte dans les colonies espagnoles— ces hommes arrivent, les mozambiques surtout—dans un état de stupidité— en deux ou trois ans ce ne sont plus les mêmes—dans les alliances qu’ils contractent avec des femmes noires—les enfants ont perdu l’air farouche et sauvage des pères—6

Le portrait que je vois dans l‘Illustrated London news’ vous ressemble-t-il—7 vous seriez très bon de m’envoyer une de vos photographies—& aussi votre “journal” du voyage du Beagle dans les mers du Sud8 s’il y a quelque chose à payer, adressez-vous à l’agent de la Societe à Londres*

*Mrs J. Morris9 8. Theresa Terrace, Hammersmith W. London—

excusez ma longue lettre et | Croyez-moi votre bien affectueux Serviteur | L Bouton

P.S. un autre fait à remarquer c’est la maladie affreuse sévillant depuis longtemps à Maurice, la Lèpre—se transmettant de generation en generation—& qui semble éprouver un temps d’arrêt quand le malade est envoyé aux Iles Seychelles—où il semble renaître sous l’influence du milieu dans lequel il se trouve— | L. B.

CD annotations

On verso of postscript: ‘Kind & interesting letter | Please [4 words illeg] [volume given] | Get copy of Seychelles [4 words illeg] [Porter]10

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 19, Appendix I.
CD’s letter has not been found, but see the letter from Louis Bouton, 22 September 1871.
Bouton alludes to the biblical references to the migration of Abraham (Gen. 12: 5) and Jacob (Gen. 46: 3).
In his letter of 22 September 1871, Bouton had described men from the Seychelles as ‘great drinkers of water’.
Nicholas Pike.
In Descent 1: 246, CD had noted that in the United States, slaves who moved from field to house duties underwent slight but rapid changes in appearance.
An engraved portrait of CD, based on a photograph, appeared in the Illustrated London News, 11 March 1871, p. 244. See plate on p. 168.
Bouton refers to Journal of researches.
Caroline Honoria Morris.
CD’s annotations are evidently notes for his reply to Bouton, which has not been found, but see Correspondence vol. 20, letter to C. H. Morris, 16 January [1872].

Translation

From Louis Bouton1   15 December 1871

Mauritius

15 Dec/1871

My dear Sir

It was with great pleasure that I received the letter you wrote to me in reply to my own.— the sketch I gave you of some families of giants from the Seychelles dated back, if you recall, fifty years or more—2 The inhabitants of these Islands had only very rare communications with the Mauritians, who were already very far along the path that we agree to call civilisation.

The Seychellois thus lived in near isolation—people married without a priest because there was none, & consequently the children went unbaptised—

Later when large sugar factories began to be founded on Mauritius—and workmen were needed to bring the land under cultivation (the slave trade having been definitively abolished)—the families from the Seychelles who had many slaves were persuaded, as in the time of Abraham & Jacob, to immigrate to Mauritius—3 the cultivation of cotton & tobacco was abandoned, & they arrived here to plant cane and make sugar—

In contact with the rest of us, the transformation began and has gradually taken effect— in the early days, when one said to them at table: “Will you take a glass of wine with me”— They would say: “I thank you Sir, I am not thirsty”—4

A member of our Royal Society of Mauritius, Colonel Pike,5 the American consul, has just made a tour of these Islands—& when I informed him of the letter I wrote to you on the subject of the Sobriety of the Seychellois— “Well, yes— I can assure you that nowadays they are very great consumers—of rum & Aqua Vitae— And in fact, they must have followed our example—the mailboat visits the Seychelles every month—& the erstwhile water-drinkers—have departed from the state of Nature—

On an island in our situation, we are witness to many such transformations— warships come to us from the Indians, sometimes carrying cargoes of negros being transported to the Spanish colonies— these men, especially the Mozambicans, arrive—in a state of stupidity— in two or three years they are no longer the same— in the alliances they contract with black women—the children have lost the wild & savage air of their fathers—6

Does the portrait I see in the ‘Illustrated London news’ resemble you—7 you would be very good to send me a photograph of yourself—& also your “journal” of the Beagle voyage to the South seas—8 if there is anything to pay, address yourself to the Society’s agent in London*

*Mrs J. Morris9 8. Theresa Terrace, Hammersmith W. London—

excuse my long letter and | Believe me your | most affectionate Servant | L Bouton

P.S. another fact to note is the frightful disease that has been raging for a long time on Mauritius, Leprosy—transmitting itself from generation to generation—& that seems to experience a temporary remission when the patient is sent to the Seychelles Islands—where he seems to be reborn under the influence of the environment in which he finds himself— | L. B.

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original French, see p. QQQQ.
CD’s letter has not been found, but see the letter from Louis Bouton, 22 September 1871.
Bouton alludes to the biblical references to the migration of Abraham (Gen. 12: 5) and Jacob (Gen. 46: 3).
In his letter of 22 September 1871, Bouton had described men from the Seychelles as ‘great drinkers of water’.
Nicholas Pike.
In Descent 1: 246, CD had noted that in the United States, slaves who moved from field to house duties underwent slight but rapid changes in appearance.
An engraved portrait of CD, based on a photograph, appeared in the Illustrated London News, 11 March 1871, p. 244. See plate on p. 168.
Bouton refers to Journal of researches.
Caroline Honoria Morris.

Summary

Pleased to hear from CD. Sends more facts about the life and habits of the inhabitants of the Seychelles.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-8107A
From
Louis Sulpice (Louis) Bouton
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Mauritius
Source of text
DAR 160: 260
Physical description
5pp (French)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8107A,” accessed on 21 July 2019, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-8107A.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19

letter