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The Memoir of Lieutenant Dumont, 1715–1747
A Sojourner in the French Atlantic
Gordon M. Sayre and Carla Zecher
Cloth: 978-0-8078-3722-1 ($55.00)
University of North Carolina Press
A Prize-Winning Book
- Honorable Mention, Lois Roth Award for a Translation of a Literary Work, Modern Language Association of America (2012)
In 1719, Jean-Francois-Benjamin Dumont de Montigny, son of a Paris lawyer, set sail for Louisiana with a commission as a lieutenant after a year in Quebec. During his peregrinations over the next eighteen years, Dumont came to challenge corrupt officials, found himself in jail, eked out a living as a colonial subsistence farmer, survived life-threatening storms and epidemics, encountered pirates, witnessed the 1719 battle for Pensacola, described the 1729 Natchez Uprising, and gave account of the 1739-1740 French expedition against the Chickasaws.
Dumont's adventures, as recorded in his 1747 memoir conserved at the Newberry Library, underscore the complexity of the expanding French Atlantic world, offering a singular perspective on early colonialism in Louisiana. His life story also provides detailed descriptions and illustrations of the peoples and environment of the lower Mississippi valley. This English translation of the unabridged memoir features a new introduction, maps, and a biographical dictionary to enhance the text. Dumont emerges here as an important colonial voice and brings to vivid life the French Atlantic.
About the Author
Gordon M. Sayre is professor of English and folklore at the University of Oregon and author of The Indian Chief as Tragic Hero: Native Resistance and the Literatures of America, from Moctezuma to Tecumseh.
Dumont de Montigny’s account of his adventures, designed to demonstrate his skills, display his sensibility, and defend a contested reputation for merit, provides a wonderfully fresh and detailed portrait of the struggles for power and prestige among the colonists and of encounters between settlers and native peoples. This Memoir offers important new insights into the negotiation of personal identity in journeys between the Old World and the New.
--Patrick Coleman, University of California, Los Angeles
Dodging death and success from La Rochelle to Biloxi and back, with some gardening in between, Dumont de Montigny survived to put quill to paper. His restless memoir, now briskly translated, offers a stereotype-shattering window onto eighteenth-century transatlantic life and writing.
--Catherine Desbarats, McGill University
Gordon Sayre is to be applauded for making this memoir accessible for the first time in English as well as for his introduction, notes, and an especially useful biographical dictionary that valuably embeds Dumont’s narrative in its literary, historical, and transatlantic contexts. A welcome addition to the growing literature on colonial Louisiana and the multilingual Atlantic world.
--Jennifer M. Spear, Simon Fraser University
The editors have done the growing field of French Atlantic studies a great service with this outstanding volume.
--Journal of Southern History
Gordon Sayre and Carla Zecher have done a great service for the study of the lower Mississippi Valley in the eighteenth century with the publication of The Memoir of Lieutenant Dumont.
--Arkansas Historical Quarterly
Recommended to anyone studying the French colonial experience, regional Native American culture, the French Marines, or the natural history of the southeast before wide-spread European occupation.
Puts an important primary source on Native American culture within reach of a wide audience. . . . [R]epresents a significant advance for several academic fields.
--William and Mary Quarterly