JACQUEMONT, Victor

JACQUEMONT, Victor. Paris 8.8.1801 — Bombay 7.12.1832. French Botanist and Traveller in India. Born in a wealthy family, father being author of psychological speculations, he studied science and medicine and moved in the Paris society. Because of an unhappy love he went to the U.S.A. in 1826. Still interested in natural sciences and wishing to see tropics he went to Santo Domingo, where his brother was a French consul. The botanical garden (of Paris) accepted to finance an expedition of five years and gave him free choice, which became India. After visiting France and England — to get the visa, which was not easily given — he started on board of La Zélé on 26.8.1828 and arrived, after stops in Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Réunion and Pondichéry, in Calcutta on 5.5.1829. Here he moved in society and learnt Urdu and Indian matters. In 20.11. he started with a modest retinue of six servants. He travelled as a naturalist, looking for plants and minerals, although also noting history, art, etc., when change brought them on his way. Of course change led him to important places, too, like “Sasseram, Mirzapur, Agra, Callinger, Panipat, Benares & Delhi”. In Delhi he visited the Mughal court. On 24.4.1830 he left for Dehra Dun and the Himalaya. In mountains he had great difficulties and became seriously ill, but succeeded in reaching Simla on 21.6. After recovering he made a short visit to Western Tibet and returned to Simla on 13.10. Allard, the general of Rañjit Singh invited him to Lahore. He is said to have been the first European after Bernier in Kashmir, where he arrived on 8.3.1831 and spent five months studying plants and animals. In spite of his renewed illness he visited the boundary of Ladakh. In February 1832 returned to Simla and Delhi and went to Bombay. Heat and illness made the travel very hard, arriving in the end of October he was taken in a military hospital, where he finally expired.

VJ’s Indian travels thus lasted three and a half year. He described it in his journal and in letters, which were published unabridged and became very popular. Among the adressates and editors was Prosper Mérimée. The edited journal was expensive and therefore less popular. He was able to describe a number of new plants and some animals, especially in Kashmir (e.g. Felis jacmonti, the squirrel Pteromys inornatus, the marmot Arctonys caudatus, and in Malwa Antelope mazemma). With his death part of his collections remained unarranged, some even unlabelled). He was an ardent democrat and despised all religions, Christianity as well as Islam, Hinduism and Lamaism.

Publications: some travel notes in Nouv. Ann. des Voy. 50, 1831; 53, 1832; & 58, 1833.

Lettres de M. V. Jacquemont. 1-2. 1836-??.

Journal de M. V. Jacquemont, Voyage dans l’Inde. 18??.

Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; O. Herrenschmidt, D.O.L.F. 513f.; *P. Mays, Un ami de Stendahl, V.J. 12+642 p. P. 193? (cf. JRAS 1936, 346f.); comte de Warren, Nouv. Ann. des Voy. 5:8:31, 1852, 257-298; *a book on Jacquemont was published by Muséum Nat. d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris in 1959; Wikipedia with portrait (more details in French version).

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