On 18 December 1781 the Frenchman François Le Vaillant set off eastwards from Cape Town, travelling along the coast to Plettenberg Bay, where he camped between May and July 1782, before continuing his journey to a spot just north of Cookhouse, on the western bank of the Great Fish River, which he reached on 12 October of the same year. He remained there until 4 December before beginning his return journey, across the Little Karoo, reaching Cape Town on 28 March 1783. His account of his journey, published in Paris in 1790, is one of the most important travel narratives of the eighteenth century, and is particularly noted for its careful description of the region’s ornithology and natural history. But certain aspects of Le Vaillant’s account remain shrouded in mystery: did he really cross the frontier into ‘Caffraria’, shortly after the First Frontier War (1779-81), in an attempt to make peace between the settlers and the Xhosa; and is he really the author of his own narrative? This talk will both look at the achievements of Le Vaillant’s text and suggest possible solutions to these enigmas
Date: 14 May 2017
Organiser: Van Plettenberg Historical Society
Speaker: D.J. Culpin
David Culpin is an Honorary Reader in French at the University of St Andrews, Scotland; Adjunct Associate Professor of French at the University of Cape Town; and Extraordinary Associate Professor of French at the University of the Western Cape.