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A Transcription of Dumont D'Urville's Manuscript les Zélandais Histoire Australienne and the Accompanying Notes, Followed by a Study of Some Literary and Historical Aspects of the Text

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posted on 2021-11-11, 23:25 authored by Legge, Carol

A brief encounter with the Maori people during April 1824, inspired Dumont d'Urville to write a novel set in New Zealand. This work is the first novel set in New Zealand and the first fictional treatment of the Maori people, written by someone who had had first hand experience of their country. Les Zélandais Histoire Australienne is a unique combination of fact and fiction and as such has a considerable contribution to make to the history and literature of the Pacific region and of New Zealand in particular. The work was never published and the reasons for this are discussed in the final chapter of the thesis. After an interval of more than one hundred and sixty years spent in obscurity, Les Zélandais Histoire Australienne emerges from this study as a valuable historical and literary document. We have described it as an ethnographic novel with ethno-historical notes. The work is comprised of two sections of equal size and importance. There is the novel and the accompanying notes which cover a wide range of subjects, reflecting Dumont d'Urville's wide ranging interests, including Pacific history, geography, languages and cultures. The Notes are a primary source of information, containing Dumont d'Urville's observations which reappeared in later publications. In addition, the vivid experiences of Burns the stowaway and ex-convict, are invaluable as early eye-witness accounts. This is the first complete transcription of the manuscripts. It was a major undertaking because of the length, age and condition of the manuscripts and the almost illegible handwriting. The exercise is discussed in Chapter I In the literary study, several writers admired by Dumont d'Urville, or by whom he was influenced, are discussed. In the first paragraph of the Story, Dumont d'Urville mentions in particular Fénelon, Florian and Rousseau. We have examined some aspects of their work which are relevant to Les Zélandais Histoire Australienne. There is, for example, a discussion on the opposing view points held by Rousseau and some of the French explorers with regard to the legend of the Noble Savage. In addition, we have chosen two works, Paul et Virginie by Bernardin de Saint Pierre and Atala by Chateaubriand, in order to consider Les Zélandais Histoire Australienne from the point of view of exoticism and poetic prose in French literature. This section concludes with an appreciation of the literary style of the novel, which contrasts with the style of Dumont d'Urville's later popular work, Voyage pittoresque autour du monde. The navigator had an abiding interest in the peoples of the South Pacific. Through les Zélandais Histoire Australienne, Dumont d'Urville communicates the enthusiasm with which he made his contribution to the study of mankind. Others before him had recorded ethnographic information but Dumont d'Urville's concern for the cultural predicament of the Maori people sets this explorer apart. The author of this work is a pioneer in modern anthropology.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Mortelier, Christiane