JACQUEMONT, Victor

JACQUEMONT, Venceslas-Victor. Paris 8.8.1801 — Bombay 7.12.1832. French Botanist and Traveller in India. Born in a wealthy family, father Venceslas J. being author of psychological speculations, he studied natural sciences and medicine and moved in the Paris society. Cuvier, Mérimée and Stendahl were his friends. 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, at Calcutta on 5.5.1829. Here he moved in society and learnt Urdu and Indian matters. In 20.11. he started to inland 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 Himalayas. 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 Ladakh (met Csoma de Kőrös in Kanam, Kinnaur) 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 intending to return to France. 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.

Jacquemont’s Indian travels thus lasted three and a half year. He described them 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 Arctomys caudates), 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 Voyages 50, 1831; 53, 1832; & 58, 1833.

Correspondence de V. J. avec sa famille et plusieurs de ses amis pendant son voyage dans l’Inde (1828–1832). 1-2. P. 1833, 4th ed. 2. 372 p. P. 1846.

Journal de M. V. Jacquemont, Voyage dans l’Inde. 1-6. 1660 p. P. 1841.

M. Lévy (ed.), Correspondance inédite de V.J. avec sa famille et ses amis. 1-2. P. 1867; A. Colin (ed.), Nouvelle correspondance inédite. P. 1896.

Découverte de l’Inde éternelle, Correspondance (1828-1832). Introduction et notes d’André Lebois. 418 p. Littérature et Tradition 4. Paris 1961.

Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; *R.K. Gupta, “Botanical explorations of V.J. (1801–1832”, Studies in the Hist. of Science in India 1, 1982, 150-157; O. Herrenschmidt, D.O.L.F. 513f.; B. Le Calloc’h, “Un témoignage capital sur la vie d’Alexandre Csoma De Kőrös: Le journal de V.J.”, AOHu 40, 1986, 249-281 & “Un tém. capital sur la vie de A.Cs. de K.:Le journal et la correspondance de V.J.”, AOHu 41, 1987, 83-124 with portrait on p. 41; *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; Wikipedia with portrait (more details in French version).

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