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A History of his Life and Time 


Professor Emeritus of Biology in Western Reserve University 
Author of "The American Eagle," "Wild Birds at Home," etc. 







Copyright, 1938, by 

All rights reserved. This book, or parts 
thereof, must not be reproduced in any 
form without permission of the publisher. 

Copyright, 1917, by D. Appleton and Company 









The origin of the gifted ornithologist, animal painter, and 
writer, known to the world as John James Audubon, has re- 
mained a mystery up to the present time. In now lifting the 
veil which was cast over his early existence, I feel that I serve 
the cause of historical truth ; at the same time it is possible 
to do fuller justice to all most intimately concerned with the 
stcry of his life and accomplishments. 

The present work is in reality the outcome of what was first 
undertaken as a holiday recreation in the summer of 1903. 
While engaged upon a research of quite a different character, 
I reread, with grenter care, Audubon's Ornithological Biog- 
raphy, and after turning the leaves of his extraordinary illus- 
trations, it seemed to me most strange that but little should be 
known of the making of so original and masterful a character. 
As I was in England at the time some investigations were 
undertaken in London, but, as might have been expected, with 
rather barren results. After my return to America in the 
following year the search was continued, but as it proved 
equally fruitless here, the subject was set aside. Not until 
1913, when this investigation was resumed in France, did I 
meet with success. 

Every man, however poor or inconsequential he may ap- 
pear or be, is supposed to possess an estate, and every man 
of affairs is almost certain to leave behind him domestic, pro- 
fessional, or commercial papers, which are, in some degree, a 
mark of his attainments and an indication of his character 
and tastes. In the summer of 1913 I went to France in 
search of the personal records of the naturalist's father, Lieu- 
tenant Jean Audubon, whose home had been at Nantes and in 
the little commune of Coueron, nine miles below that city, on 



the right bank of the Loire. The part which Lieutenant 
Audubon played in the French Revolution was fully revealed 
in his letters, his reports to the Central Committee, and nu- 
merous other documents which are preserved in the archives 
of the Prefecture at Nantes ; while complete records of his 
naval career both in the merchant marine and governmental ser- 
vice (service pour VEtat) were subsequently obtained at Paris; 
but at Nantes his name had all but vanished, and little could 
be learned of his immediate family, which had been nearly 
extinct in France for over thirty years. 

Again the quest seemed likely to prove futile until a let- 
ter, which I received through the kindness of Mr. Louis Gold- 
schmidt, then American Consul at Nantes, to M. Giraud 
Gangie, comervateur of the public library in that city, 
brought a response, under date of December 29, 1913, in- 
forming me that two years before that time, he had met by 
chance in the streets of Coueron a retired notary who assured 
him that he held in possession numerous exact records of Jean 
Audubon and his family. The sage Henry Thoreau once re- 
marked that you might search long and diligently for a rare 
bird, and then of a sudden surprise the whole family at dinner. 
So it happened in this case, and since these manuscript records, 
sought by many in vain on this side of the Atlantic, are so 
important for this history, the reader is entitled to an account 
of them. 

Upon corresponding with the gentleman in question, M. L. 
Lavigne, I was informed that the documents in his possession 
were of the most varied description, comprising letters, wills, 
deeds, certificates of births, baptisms, adoptions, marriages 
and deaths, to the number, it is believed, of several hundred 
pieces. This unique and extraordinary collection of Audubon- 
ian records had been slumbering in a house in the commune of 
Coueron called "Les Tourterelles" ("The Turtle Doves") for 
nearly a hundred years, or since the death of the naturalist's 
stepmother in 1821. 

Since I was unable to judge of the authenticity of the 
documents or to visit France at that time, my friend, Pro- 


fessor Gustav G. Laubscher, who happened to be in Paris, 
engaged in investigating Romance literary subjects, kindly 
consented to go to Coueron for the purpose of inspecting them. 
Monsieur Lavigne had already prepared for me, and still held, 
a number of photographs of the most important manuscripts, 
which are now for the first time reproduced, and, with the 
aid of a stenographer, in the course of two or three days they 
were able to transcribe the most essential and interesting parts 
of this voluminous material. But at that very moment sinister 
clouds were blackening the skies of Europe, and my friend 
was obliged to leave his task unfinished and hasten to Paris ; 
when he arrived in that city, on the memorable Saturday of 
August 1, 1914, orders for the mobilization of troops had 
been posted ; it was some time before copies of the manuscripts 
were received from Coueron, and he left the French capital 
to return to America. 

These documents came into the hands of Monsieur La- 
vigne through his wife, who was a daughter and legatee of Ga- 
briel Loyen du Puigaudeau, the second, son of Gabriel Loyen du 
Puigaudeau, the son-in-law of Lieutenant and Mme. Jean Audu- 
bon. Gabriel Loyen du Puigaudeau, the second, who died at 
Coueron in 1892, is thought to have destroyed all letters of the 
naturalist which had been in possession of the family and 
which were written previous to 1820, when his relations with 
the elder Du Puigaudeau were broken off; not a line in the 
handwriting of John James Audubon has been preserved at 

In June and July, 1914, Dr. Laubscher had repeatedly 
applied to the French Foreign Office, through the American 
Embassy at Paris, for permission to examine the dossier of 
Jean Audubon in the archives of the Department of the 
Marine, in order to verify certain dates in his naval career 
and to obtain the personal reports which he submitted upon 
his numerous battles at sea, but at that period of strain it 
was impossible to gain further access to the papers sought. 

Having told the story of the way in which these unique 
and important records came into my possession, I wish to ex- 


press my gratitude to Professor Laubscher for his able co- 
operation in securing transcriptions and photographs, and to 
Monsieur Lavigne for his kind permission to use them, as well 
as for his careful response to numerous questions which arose 
in the course of the investigation. 

In dealing with letters and documents, of whatever kind, 
in manuscript, I have made it my invariable rule to reproduce 
the form and substance of the record as it exists as exactly 
as possible; in translations, however, no attempt has been 
made to preserve any minor idiosyncrasies of the writer. The 
source of all scientific, literary or historical material previously 
published is indicated in footnotes, and the reader will find 
copious references to hitherto unpublished documents, which 
in their complete and original form, with or without transla- 
tions, together with an annotated Bibliography, have been 
gathered in Appendices at the end of Volume II. For con- 
venience of reference each chapter has been treated as a unit 
so far as the footnotes are concerned, and the quoted author's 
name, with the title of his work in addition to the bibliographic 
number, has been given in nearly every instance. 

Besides the many coadjutors whose friendly aid has been 
gladly ajknowledged in the body of this work, I now wish to 
offer my sincere thanks, in particular, to the Misses Maria 
R. and Florence Audubon, granddaughters of the naturalist, 
who have shown me many courtesies, and to the Hon. Myron 
T. Herrick, late American Ambassador to France, for his 
kindly assistance in obtaining documentary transcripts from 
the Department of the Marine at Paris. I am under special 
obligations also to the librarians of the British Museum and Ox- 
ford University, the Linnaean and Zoological Societies of Lon- 
don, the Jardin des Plantes at Paris, the Public Libraries of 
Boston and New York, and the libraries of the Historical So- 
cieties of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Louisiana, as 
well as to the Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 
of Harvard University, and to the American Museum of 
Natural History in New York City, for photographs of paint- 
ings and other objects, for permission to read or copy manu- 


scripts, and for favors of various sorts. Furthermore, I am 
indebted to the good offices of Mr. Ferdinand Lathrop Mayer, 
Secretary of Legation, Port-au-Prince, and of M. Fontaine, 
American Consular Agent at Les Cayes, Haiti, for a series 
of photographs made expressly to represent Les Cayes as it 
appears today. I would also acknowledge the courtesy of the 
Corporation of Trinity Parish, New York, through Mr. 
Pendleton Dudley, for an excellent photograph of the Audu- 
bon Monument. 

I cannot express too fully my appreciation of the hearty 
response which the publishers of these volumes have given to 
every question concerned with their presentation in an ade- 
quate and attractive form, and particularly to Mr. Francis 
G. Wickware, of D. Appleton and Company, to whose knowl- 
edge, skill, and unabated interest the reader, like myself, is in- 
debted in manifold ways. 

My friend, Mr. Ruthven Deane, well known for his inves- 
tigations in Auduboniana and American ornithological litera- 
ture, has not only read the proofs of the text, but has gener- 
ously placed at my disposal many valuable notes, references, 
pictures, letters and other documents, drawn from his own 
researches and valuable personal collections. I wish to 
express in the most particular manner also my ap- 
preciation of the generous spirit in which Mr. Joseph 
Y. Jeanes has opened the treasures in his possession, 
embracing not only large numbers of hitherto unpublished 
letters, but an unrivaled collection of early unpublished Au- 
dubonian drawings, for the enrichment and embellishment of 
these pages. For the loan or transcription of other original 
manuscript material, or for supplying much needed data of 
every description, I am further most indebted to Mr. Welton 
H. Rozier, of St. Louis ; Mr. Tom J. Rozier, of Ste. Genevieve ; 
Mr. C. A. Rozier, of St. Louis ; the Secretary of the Linnaean 
Society of London, through my friend, Mr. George E. Bullen, 
of St. Albans; Mr. Henry R. Howland of the Buffalo So- 
ciety of Natural Sciences, of Buffalo; Mr. William Beer, of 
the Howard Memorial Library, of New Orleans ; and Mr. W. 


H. Wetherill, of Philadelphia. For the use of new photo- 
graphic and other illustrative material, I am further indebted 
to Mr. Stanley Clisby Arthur, of the Conservation Commis- 
sion of Louisiana, and to Cassinia, the medium of publication 
of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club. 

Through the kindness of Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons 
I have been permitted to draw rather freely from Audubon 
and His Journals, by Miss Maria R. Audubon and Elliott 
Coues, and to reproduce three portraits therefrom; original 
photographs of two of these have been kindly supplied by Dr. 
R. W. Shufeldt. I also owe to the courtesy of the Girard 
Trust Company, of Philadelphia, the privilege of quoting cer- 
tain letters contained in William Healey DalFs Spencer Ful- 

lerton Baird. 

To my esteemed colleague, Professor Benjamin P, Bour- 
land, I am under particular obligations for his invaluable aid 
in revising translations from the French and in the translitera- 
tion of manuscripts, as well as for his kindly assistance in 
correspondence on related subjects. I have derived much 
benefit also from my sister, Miss Elizabeth A. Herrick, who 
has made many valuable suggestions. To all others who have 
aided me by will or deed in the course of this work I wish to 
express my cordial thanks. 

Francis H. Herrick. 

Western Reserve University, 


July 2, 1917. 


No less than ten volumes about, or by, Audubon have ap- 
peared during the past twenty years, or since the publication 
of Audubon the Naturalist in 1917, and three of these are more 
or less extended biographies. Certainly this is remarkable 
evidence of the curiosity that his adventurous and romantic 
life has aroused in the reading public, as well as of the engaging 
beauty of his delineations of animal and plant life. 

Recent years (1929-1930) have seen the publication of the 
journal of Audubon's famous journey down the Ohio and 
Mississippi Rivers in 1820-1821, and also of his journal of 
1840-1843, made while obtaining subscriptions to his Birds of 
America in America, as well as two volumes of letters, written 
in 1826-1840, the most fruitful period of his life's labors. 

As a climax to this, all of Audubon's great and lesser bird 
plates, some five hundred in number, a century after their 
original publication in England and America, have now been 
reproduced in full color, though in reduced form, with a brief 
text, while the value of the original 435 hand-colored copper- 
plate engravings of the double elephant folio edition of 1826- 
1838 has risen to fifteen times their original cost of one thou- 
sand dollars in America. 

Audubon's "Book of Nature," as he often called his Birds of 
America, should be judged not alone by its fidelity or scientific 
accuracy, but also by the force of its example in sending direct 
to Nature, the fountainhead, all who would depict life and 
action. As an inspirer of youth, who can estimate the extent 
of its influence? 

The late Louis Agassiz Fuertes, who was certainly one of 

the greatest delineators of bird life that has ever lived, wrote 



me in 1917 that he owed his great desire to represent the beauty 
of birds to Audubon's Birds of America, a copy of which was 
given by Ezra Cornell to the institution that he founded and 
that bears his name. Those resplendent plates of birds and 
flowers enthralled the youthful Fuertes, who had free access 
to them in the library of Cornell University, and they de- 
termined the direction of his whole after life. Fuertes was no 
imitator, but it should be remembered that he had the advantage 
of following after a great pioneer. 

The legitimate curiosity about the life and accomplishments 
of this singular genius has doubtless been whetted by the fan- 
tastic theory that Jean Jacques Fougere Audubon was the real 
"lost Dauphin," son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, in 
name the veritable King Louis XVII of France. 

Although the authoritative historians of the world long ago 
may have rejected the idea that the Dauphin was "lost," except 
in the sense that he had died, and may consider the question of 
his survival after imprisonment in the Temple as too obsolete 
an issue to even merit refutation, the recent attempts to place 
John James Audubon at the end of a long line of false pre- 
tenders have made it necessary for me to deal with the question 
somewhat at length in the "Foreword and Postscript" to this 

In a case such as this, no honest writer can stoop to equivo- 
cation, or attempt to carry water on both shoulders, whether 
from a tender feeling for his subject, through domestic par- 
tiality, or by playing with enigma or mystery in order to 
heighten interest in his narrative. 

The subject is of such historical importance that it must 
be treated with the strictest impartiality, by relying upon the 
preponderance of evidence, without personal animosity, and 
with the sole desire of uncovering the truth. The arguments 
that the proponents of the Dauphin-Audubon alliance have ad- 
vanced were known to me twenty years ago, and were rejected 
then, as now, as wholly devoid of any proper and necessary 
documentary support. It should be remembered that Audubon 


made public no statement bearing upon his being the Dauphin 
of France. 

Audubon was quite human, with plenty of faults, which may 
not always be excused, but with versatile talents which few 
could match. He showed that dogged perseverance in attaining 
his heart's desire which no poverty, no discords among family 
or friends, no lack of education, and no handicaps or mis- 
fortune could for more than a moment defeat or keep from 
eventual success. With all his lacks and all his faults Audubon 
was one of the most industrious and self-reliant among the 
successful men of his age. No longer can John James Audubon 
be called the "Melchizcdek of Natural History," for to-day 
few men of his period are better known. Audubon was a man 
of great personal charm with a gift for friendship. A man who 
made and kept such friends as Edward Harris, William Mac- 
Gillivray, the Reverend Dr. John Bachman, Dr. George Park- 
man, and Dr. George Cheyne Shattuck must have had a good 

Textual errors in the plates of the first edition have been 
corrected, and the bibliography has been extended to the present 
time. Those who are interested in the octavo editions of The 
Birds of America and of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North 
America should consult an article in The Auk (see Bibliogra- 
phy, No. 245) for a more complete list of their perplexing issues. 
The "Foreword and Postscript" of the present edition is repro- 
duced in substance from a paper in The Auk for October, 1937. 

Francis H. Herrick. 
Cleveland Heights, Ohio. 
November 4, 1937. 



Preface to the First Edition vii 

Preface to the Second Edition XU1 

Chronology xxxix 

Foreword and Postscript: Audubon and the Dauphin . . . lv 



Audubon's growing fame — Experience in Paris in 1838 — Cuvier's patron- 
age — -Audubon's publications — His critics — His talents and accom- 
plishments — His Americanism arid honesty of purpose — His foibles 
and faults — Appreciations and monuments — The Audubon Societies 
— Biographies and autobiography — Robert Buchanan and the true 
history of his Life of Audubon 1 


Jean Audubon and His Family 

Extraordinary career of the naturalist's father — Wounded at fourteen 
and prisoner of war for five years in England — Service in the 
French merchant marine and navy — Voyages to Newfoundland and 
Santo Domingo — His marriage in France — His sea fights, capture 
and imprisonment in New York — His command at the Battle of 
Yorktown — Service in America and encounters with British priva- 
teers 24 


Jean Audubon as Santo Domingo Planter and Merchant 

Captain Audubon at Les Cayes— As planter, sugar refiner, general 
merchant and slave dealer, amasses a fortune — His return to 
France with his children — History of the Santo Domingo revolt — 
Baron de Wimpffen's experience— Revolution of the whites — Op- 
position of the abolitionists — Effect of the Declaration of Rights 
on the mulattoes — The General Assembly drafts a new constitution 
— First blood drawn between revolutionists and loyalists at Port- 





au-Prince — Oge's futile attempt to liberate the mulattoes — Les 
Cayes first touched by revolution in 1790, four years after the death 
of Audubon's mother — Emancipation of the mulattoes — Resistance 
of the whites — General revolt of blacks against whites and the 
ruin of the colony 36 


Audubon's Birth, Nationality, and Parentage 

Les Cayes — Audubon's French Creole mother — His early names — Discov- 
ery of the Sanson bill with the only record of his birth — Medical 
practice of an early day — Birth of Muguet, Audubon's sister — 
Fougere and Muguet taken to France — Audubon's adoption and 
baptism — His assumed name — Dual personality in legal documents 
— Source of published errors — Autobiographic records — Rise of 
enigma and tradition — The Marigny myth 52 


Lieutenant Audubon as Revolutionist 

Background of Audubon's youth — Nantes in Revolution — Revolt in La 
Vendee— Siege of Nantes— Reign of terror under Carrier— Plague 
robbing the guillotine — Flight of the population — Execution of 
Charette— The Chouan raid— Citizen Audubon's service— He re- 
enters the navy and takes a prize from the English — His subse- 
quent naval career — His losses in Santo Domingo — His service and 
rank — Retires on a pension — His death— His character and appear- 


School Days in France 

Molding of Audubon's character— Factor of environment— Turning fail- 
ure into success — An indulgent step-mother — The truant — His love 
of nature— Early drawings and discipline — Experience at Roche- 
fort — Baptized in the Roman Catholic Church 


First Visit to the United States, and Life at 

"Mill Grove" 

Audubon is sent to the United States to learn English and enter trade 
—Taken ill— Befriended by the Quakers— Settles at "Mill Grove" 





farm —Its history and attractions — Studies of American birds be- 
gun — Engagement to Lucy Bakewell — Sports and festivities . 


Dacosta and the "Mill Grove" Mine 

Advent of a new agent at "Mill Grove"— Dacosta becomes guardian 
to young Audubon and exploits a neglected lead mine on the farm 
— Correspondence of Lieutenant Audubon and Dacosta — Quarrel 
with Dacosta — Audubon's return to France 113 


Audubon's Last Visit to his Home in France 

Life at Coueron— Friendship of D'Orbigny— Drawings of French birds 
— D'Orbigny's troubles — Marriage of Rosa Audubon — The du Pui- 
gaudeaus — Partnership with Ferdinand Rozier — Their Articles of 
Association — They sail from Nantes, are overhauled by British 
privateers, but land safely at New York— Settle at "Mill Grove" . 127 


"La Gerbetiere" of Yesterday and Today 

Home of Audubon's youth at Coueron — Its situation on the Loire — 

History of the villa and commune — Changes of a century . . . 136 


First Ventures in Business at New York, and Sequel to 

the "Mill Grove" Mine 

Audubon and Rozier at "Mill Grove"— Their partnership rules— At- 
tempts to form a mining company lead to disappointment — Deci- 
sion to sell their remaining interests in "Mill Grove" to Dacosta— 
Division of the property and legal entanglements — Audubon as a 
clerk in New York — Business correspondence and letters to his 
father — Later history of the lead mine and Dacosta — Audubon 
continues his drawings in New York and works for Dr. Mitchell's 
Museum — Forsakes the counting-room for the fields — Personal 
sketch I 46 



Early Drawings in France and America 


Child and man — His ideals, perseverance and progress — Study under 
David at Paris — David's pupils and studios — David at Nantes 
arouses the enthusiasm of its citizens — His part in the Revolution 
—His art and influence over Audubon — Audubon's drawings of 
French birds — Story of the Edward Harris collection — The Birds 
of America in the bud — Audubon's originality, style, methods, and 
mastery of materials and technique— His problem and how he 
solved it — His artistic defects 173 


Audubon's Marriage and Settlement in the West 

Audubon and Rozier decide to start a pioneer store at Louisville, 
Kentucky— Their purchase of goods in New York— "Westward 
Ho" with Rozier— Rozier' s diary of the journey— An unfortunate 
investment in indigo — Effect of the Embargo Act — Marriage to 
Lucy Bakewell— Return to Louisville— Life on the Ohio — Depres- 
sion of trade— William Bakewell's assistance— Audubon's eldest son 
born at the "Indian Queen"— The Bakewells— Life at Louisville . 186 


A Meeting of Rivals, and Sketch of Another Pioneer 

Alexander Wilson and his American Ornithology— His canvassing tour 
of 1810— His retort to a Solomon of the bench— Descriptions of 
Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Louisville— Meeting with Audubon— 
Journey to New Orleans— Youth in Scotland— Weaver, itinerant 
peddler, poet and socialist— Sent to jail for libel— Emigrates to the 
United States— Finally settles as a school teacher near Philadel- 
phia—His friendships with Bartram and Lawson— Disappoint- 
ments in love— Early studies of American birds— His drawings, 
thrift, talents and genius— Publication of his Ornithology— His 
travels, discouragements and success— His premature death— Con- 
flicting accounts of the visit to Audubon given by the two natural- 
ists—Rivalry between the friends of Wilson, dead, and those of 
Audubon, living— The controversy which followed— An evasive 
"Flycatcher"— Singular history of the Mississippi Kite plate . . 20? 



Experiments in Trade on the Frontier 


The Ohio a hundred years ago— Hardships of the pioneer trader— 
Audubon's long journeys by overland trail or river to buy goods— 
The "ark" and keelboat— Chief pleasures of the naturalist at Louis- 
ville—The partners move their goods by flatboat to Henderson, 
Kentucky, and then to Ste. Genevieve (Missouri)— Held up by the 
i ce — Adventures with the Indians — Mississippi in flood — Camp at 
the Great Bend— Abundance of game— Breaking up of the ice- 
Settle at Ste. Genevieve — The partnership dissolved — Audubon's 
return to Henderson — Rozier's successful career — His old store at 
Ste. Genevieve 233 


Audubon's Mill and Final Reverses in Business 

Dr. Rankin's "Meadow Brook Farm"— Birth of John Woodhouse Audu- 
bon— The Audubon-Bakewell partnership— Meeting with Nolte— 
Failure of the commission business— Visit to Rozier— Storekeeping 
at Henderson— Purchases of land— Habits of frontier tradesmen 
—Steamboats on the Ohio— Popular pastimes— Audubon-Bakewell- 
Pears partnership — Their famous steam mill — Mechanical and finan- 
cial troubles— Business reorganization— Bankruptcy general— Fail- 
ure of the mill— Personal encounter— Audubon goes to jail for 
debt 247 


The Enigma of Audubon's Life and the History of His 

Family in France 

Death of Lieutenant Audubon— Contest over his will— Disposition of 
his estate— The fictitious $17,000— Unsettled claims of Formon and 
Ross— Illusions of biographers— Gabriel Loyen du Puigaudeau— 
Audubon's relations with the family in France broken— Death of 
the naturalist's stepmother— The du Puigaudeaus— Sources of 
"enigma." 262 


Early Episodes of Western Life 

Methods of composition— "A Wild Horse"— Henderson to Philadelphia 
in 1811— Records of Audubon and Nolte, fellow travelers, com- 



pared — The great earthquakes — The hurricane — The outlaw — Char- 
acterization of Daniel Boone — Desperate plight on the prairie — 
Regulator law in action — Frontier necessities — The ax married to 
the grindstone 273 


Audubon and Rafinesque 

The "Eccentric Naturalist" at Henderson — Bats and new species — The 
demolished violin — "M. de T.": Constantine Samuel Rafinesque 
(Schmaltz) — His precocity, linguistic acquirements and peripatetic 
habits — First visit to America and botanical studies — Residence in 
Sicily, and fortune made in the drug trade — Association with 
Swainson — Marriage and embitterment — His second journey to 
America ends in shipwreck — Befriended — Descends Ohio in a flat- 
boat — Visit with Audubon, who gives him many strange "new 
species" — Cost to zoology — His unique work on Ohio fishes — Profes- 
sorship in Transylvania University — Quarrel with its president and 
trustees — Return to Philadelphia — His ardent love of nature; his 
writings, and fatal versatility — His singular will — His sad end and 
the ruthless disposition of his estate 285 


Audubon's ./Eneid, 1819-1824: Wanderings Through the 

West and South 

Pivotal period in Audubon's career — His spur and balance wheel — 
Resort to portraiture — Taxidermist in the Western Museum — Set- 
tles in Cincinnati — History of his relations with Dr. Drake — De- 
cides to make his avocation his business — Journey down the Ohio 
and Mississippi with Mason and Cummings — Experiences of travel 
without a cent of capital— Life in New Orleans— Vanderlyn's rec- 
ommendation — Original drawings — Chance meeting with Mrs. Pir- 
rie and engagement as tutor at "Oakley"— Enchantments of West 
Feliciana— "My lovely Miss Pirrie"— The jealous doctor— Famous 
drawing of the rattlesnake— Leaves St. Francisville and is adrift 
again in New Orleans— Obtains pupils in drawing and is joined 
by his family— Impoverished, moves to Natchez, and Mrs. Audu- 
bon becomes a governess — Injuries to his drawings — The labors of 
years destroyed by rats — Teaching in Tennessee — Parting with 
Mason — First lessons in oils— Mrs. Audubon's school at "Beech- 
woods"— Painting tour fails— Stricken at Natchez— At the Percys' 
plantation — Walk to Louisville — Settles at Shippingport . . .301 



Debut as a Naturalist 


Makes his bow at Philadelphia — Is greeted with plaudits and cold water 
—Friendship of Harlan, Sully, Bonaparte and Harris— Hostility of 
Ord, Lawson and other friends of Alexander Wilson— A meeting 
of academicians— Visit to "Mill Grove" — Exhibits drawings in 
New York and becomes a member of the Lyceum — At the Falls 
of Niagara— In a gale on Lake Erie— Episode at Meadville— Walk 
to Pittsburgh — Tour of Lakes Ontario and Champlain — Decides to 
take his drawings to Europe — Descends the Ohio in a skiff — 
Stranded at Cincinnati — Teaching at St. Francisville .... 327 


To Europe and Success 

Audubon sails from New Orleans — Life at sea — Liverpool — The Rath- 
bones — Exhibition of drawings an immediate success — Personal ap- 
pearance—Painting habits resumed — His pictures and methods- 
Manchester visited — Plans for publication — The Birds of America 
— Welcome at Edinburgh — Lizars engraves the Turkey Cock — In 
the role of society's lion — His exhibition described by a French 
critic — Honors of science and the arts — Contributions to journals 
excite criticism — Aristocratic patrons — Visit to Scott — The Wild 
Pigeon and the rattlesnake— Letter to his wife— Prospectus— Jour- 
ney to London 347 


Audubon in London 

Impressions of the metropolis— A trunk full of letters— Friendship of 
Children— Sir Thomas Lawrence— Lizars stops work— A family of 
artists— Robert Havell, Junior— The Birds of America fly to Lon- 
don—The Zoological Gallery— Crisis in the naturalist's affairs- 
Royal patronage— Interview with Gallatin— Interesting the Queen- 
Desertion of patrons — Painting to independence — Personal habits 
and tastes— Enters the Linnaean Society — The white-headed Eagle 
—Visit to the great universities— Declines to write for magazines 
— Audubon-Swainson correspondence — "Highfield Hall" near Tyt- 
tenhanger — In Paris with Swainson — Glimpses of Cuvier— His re- 
port on The Birds of America— Patronage of the French Govern- 
ment and the Duke of Orleans — Bonaparte the naturalist . . .377 



First Visit to America in Search of New Birds 


Settles for a time in Camden — Paints in a fisherman's cottage by the 
sea— With the lumbermen in the Great Pine Woods — Work done — 
Visits his sons — Joins his wife at St. Francisville — Record of jour- 
ney south — Life at "Beechgrove" — Mrs. Audubon retires from 
teaching — Their plans to return to England — Meeting with Presi- 
dent Jackson and Edward Everett 4*20 


Audubon's Letterpress and Its Rivals 

Settlement in London — Starts on canvassing tour with his wife — 
Change of plans — In Edinburgh — Discovery of MaeGillivray — His 
hand in the Ornithological Biography — Rival editions of Wilson 
and Bonaparte — Brown's extraordinary Atlas — Reception of the 
Biography— Joseph Bartholomew Kidd and the Ornithological Gal- 
lery — In London again 437 



Explorations in Florida and the South Atlantic 


Obituary published in London on day of his arrival in New York — As- 
sistance from the Government — John Bachman becomes his friend 
— Winter in Charleston — His folios as gifts — To Florida with two 
assistants — Letters to Featherstonhaugh — St. Augustine — Misad- 
ventures in the mud of East Florida — Audubon on Florida's fu- 
ture — At the sources of the St. John's — Aboard the Marion — 
Return from Key West — A merchant of Savannah — Disbanding of 
party at Charleston 1 


Eastern Visit and Explorations in the North Atlantic 

Bachman's success as a canvasser— Boston visit — Journey to Portland — 
Ascent of the St. John — Return overland — Victor Audubon be- 
comes his father's agent — Winter in Boston — The Golden Eagle — 
Stricken with illness — Expedition to Labrador planned — Ameri- 
can support — Sails from Eastport with five assistants — Discoveries 
and adventures on the Labrador — Safe return — Another winter in 
Charleston — Sued for old debts — Experience with vultures — Advice 
and instruction to a son — Working habits — Return to England . 26 


Thorns on the Rose 

Contributions to magazines — Attacked in Philadelphia — Statement to 
Sully — The rattlesnake episode — Behavior of a Philadelphia editor 
— Mistaken identity in account of the reptile— Lesson of the ser- 
pent's tooth — Audubon's long lost lily rediscovered— "Nosarians 
and Anti-Nosarians" — Bachman and Audubon on vultures — Aim of 
the critics — Authorship in the Biography — His most persistent 
heckler — Pitfall of analogy 67 




Sidelights on Audubon and His Contemporaries 


What was a Quinarian? — Controversy over the authorship of the Orni- 
thological Biography — Auduhon's quaint proposal — Swainson's re- 
ply — Friendship suffers a check — Species-mongers — Hitting at one 
over the shoulders of another — Swainson as a biographer — His ca- 
reer — Bonaparte's grievance — A fortune in ornithology — Labors of 
John Gould and his relations with Audubon— The freemasonry of 
naturalists 93 


Audubon and MacGillivray 

In London once more — MacGillivray's assistance continued — Return to 
Edinburgh — MacGillivray's character and accomplishments — Audu- 
bon's acknowledgments— Tributes of "Christopher North"— Results 
of overwork— Fusillades from "Walton Hall"— Progress of the 
large plates 125 


Third American Tour, 1836-1837 

In New York harbor— Collections from the Far West— Audubon's ef- 
forts to secure them— Return to Boston— Friendship of Daniel 
Webster— Renewed efforts to obtain the Nuttall-Townsend collec- 
tions—Expedition to the west coast of Florida— Deferred govern- 
mental aid— Another winter with Bachman— Overland journey to 
New Orleans— On board the Crusader— Mistaken for pirates— With 
Harris and his son explores the Gulf coast— The Republic of Texas 
—Visit to its capital and president— Meeting in Charleston— Mar- 
riage of his son — Their return to England 1*6 


Audubon's Greatest Triumph 

Extension of his work — Financial panic and revolt of patrons — New 
western collections— His "book of Nature" completed— Work on the 
letterpress in Edinburgh— Vacation in the Highlands— Commissions 



to Harris — Parting address to the reader — Dissolution of the 
Havell engraving establishment — The residuum of The Birds of 
America — Robert Havell, engraver, and his family — Lizars' first 
edition and the Havell reissues of plates — Brief manual for col- 
lectors — Appreciations — Total edition of The Birds of America — 
Past and oresent prices — The Rothschild incident 168 


New Enterprises and Life at "Minnie's Land" 

Settlement in New York — The Birds in miniature, and work on the 
Quadrupeds — Marriage of Victor Audubon — Cooperation of Bach- 
man in the Quadrupeds secured — Prospectuses — History of the oc- 
tavo edition of the Birds — Baird's enthusiasm and efficient aid — 
Parkman's Wren — Baird's visit to Audubon in New York — "Look 
out for Martens," and wildcats — New home on the Hudson — God- 
win's pilgrimage to "Minnie's Land" in 1842 208 


Expedition to the Upper Missouri 

Ambitions at fifty-seven — Plans his last expedition in the role of natu- 
ralist — Credentials from public men — Canvassing tour in Canada 
described — Baird's plans to accompany Audubon west frustrated — 
Western expedition begun — Ascent of the Missouri and Yellowstone 
— Discoveries of new birds — A wilderness that howls — Buffalo hunt- 
ing — Passing of the great herds — Return from Fort Union — Inci- 
dent on the canal boat — Completion of the octavo edition of the 
Birds 239 


Final Work Days 

Painting the Quadrupeds — Assistance of Bachman and Audubon's sons 
— Copper plates of the Birds go through the fire in New York — 
Audubon a spectator at the ruins — Bachman's ultimatum — Success 
of the illustrations of the Quadrupeds — Bachman's letterpress — 
Recommendation of Baird — J. W. Audubon in London — Bachman's 
assistants — His life and labors — Decline of Audubon's powers — Dr. 
Brewer's visit — Audubon's last letters — His death at "Minnie's 
Land" 261 



Afterword: Audubon's Family in America 


Bachman completes his text on the Quadrupeds— Victor Audubon's suc- 
cess in canvassing — John Woodhouse Audubon's family — New 
houses at "Minnie's Land" — Second octavo edition of the Birds — 
Victor Audubon's illness and death— Attempt to reissue The Birds 
of America in America— The residual stock of this imperfect edi- 
tion — Death of John Woodhouse Audubon — His career and work as 
an artist and field collector— Mrs. Audubon resumes her old voca- 
tion—Fate of "Minnie's Land"— Death of Mrs. Audubon— Her 
share in her husband's fame— Story written on Audubon's original 
drawings— Fate of the original copper plates of the Birds— A boy 
comes to the rescue— "Minnie's Land" today— The "Cave"— A real 
"Audubon Park" 291 


Original Documents 

1. Copy of the original bill rendered by Doctor Sanson, physician 
at Les Cayes, Santo Domingo, to Jean Audubon, containing the 
only existing record of the birth of his son, Jean Jacques Fou- 
gere Audubon, on April 26, 1785; Les Cayes, December 29, 1783- 
October 19, 1785 314 

la. Translation of the Sanson Bill 315 

2. Copy of the Act of Adoption of Fougere (John James Audu- 
bon) and Muguet (Rosa Audubon), Nantes, March 7, 1794 . 328 

3. Copy of the Act of Baptism of Jean Jacques Fougere Audubon, 
Nantes, October 23, 1800 329 

4. Copy of a bill of sale of Negroes rendered by Monsieur Ollivier 

to Monsieur Audubon, Les Cayes, Santo Domingo, 1785 . . 330 

5. Statement of Accounts of Messrs. Audubon, Lacroix, Formon & 
Jacques in the purchase of Negroes from M. Th. Johnston, Les 
Cayes, Santo Domingo, 1785 331 

6. Copy of bill of sale of Negroes to Monsieur Audubon, and a 
statement of his account with Messrs. Lucas Brothers & Con- 
stant, Les Cayes, Santo Domingo, August 7, 1785-June 9, 1788 334 

7. Accounts of William Bakewell of "Fatland Ford" as protege of 
his future son-in-law, and as attorney or agent for Audubon & 
Rozier, giving certain exact indications of the naturalist's early 
movements and personal relations, before and after finally leav- 
ing "Mill Grove," January 4, 1805-April 9, 1810 . . • .336 

8. Concerning a Power of Attorney issued by Lieutenant Audubon 
and Anne Moynet Audubon to Ferdinand Rozier and John Au- 



dubon, the Younger, at Coueron, France, in 1805; parts in 
French translated by a Philadelphia notary; signatures of orig- 
inal document authenticated by the Mayor of Coueron, October 
21, 1805; his attest of the legality of Anne Moynet Audubon's 
signature at Coueron, October 27, 1805; authentication of the 
signature of the Mayor of Coueron by the Subprefect of Save- 
nay, November 27, 1805; attest of the Subprefect's signature by 
the Prefect 340 

9. Articles of Association of Jean Audubon and Ferdinand Rozier 
to govern their partnership in business; drawn up at Nantes, 
March 23, 1806 344 

9a. Translation of the Articles of Association of Jean Audubon and 

Ferdinand Rozier 345 

10. Power of Attorney issued by Lieutenant Jean Audubon, Anne 
Moynet Audubon and Claude Francois Rozier, to their respective 
sons, Jean Audubon and Ferdinand Rozier, at Nantes, France, 
April 4, 1806, eight days before the latter embarked to Amer- 
ica to enter upon their partnership in business 350 

10a. Translation of the Power of Attorney issued by Jean Audubon, 
Anne Moynet Audubon, and Claude Francois Rozier to Jean 
Audubon and Ferdinand Rozier, April 4, 1806 .... 351 

11. Account current of John Audubon and Ferdinand Rozier with 
the estate of Benjamin Bakewell, late commission merchant in 
New York, showing their dealings and standing with this house 
during the first sixteen months of their business experience in the 
West. Covers the period August 1, 1807, to December 13, 1808 . 354 

11a. Final Account of Francis Dacosta, rendered July 25, 1807, to 
Lieutenant Jean Audubon, his partner in the unfortunate mining 
enterprise at "Mill Grove"; later contested and settled by arbi- 
tration 356 

12. Quit Claim or Release given by John James Audubon to Ferdi- 
nand Rozier on the Dissolution of their Partnership in Business, 

at Sainte Genevieve, Upper Louisiana (Missouri), April 6, 1811 359 

13. Copy of a portion of the first Will of Lieutenant Jean Audu- 
bon, Coueron, May 20, 1812 360 

14. Copy of the second and last Will of Lieutenant Jean Audubon, 
March 15, 1816 361 

15. Copy of a portion of the first Will of Madame Anne Moynet, 
wife of Lieutenant Audubon, December 4, 1814 .... 363 

16. Copy of a portion of the second Will of Madame Jean Audubon, 
May 10, 1816 364 

17. Copy of the third Will, "No. 169, of Madame Anne Moynet, 
widow of M. Jean Audubon, living at his house called "La Ger- 
betiere," and situated near the village of Port-Launay, not far 
from Coueron," December 26, 1819 366 

18. Copy of a portion of the fourth and last will of Madame Jean 
Audubon, living at the house of "The Turtle Doves" ("Les Tour- 
terelles"), at Coueron, July 16, 1821 367 



19. Notice of the death of Lieutenant Jean Audubon, from the offi- 
cial registry of Nantes, Nantes, February 19, 1818 . . .369 

20. Letter of Lieutenant Jean Audubon to Francis Dacosta, his 
American agent and attorney, relating to the conduct of his son, 
and to the lead mine at "Mill Grove" farm, transliterated from 
photographic copy of duplicate (Letter No. 4) in Jean Audu- 
bon's letter-book. Nantes, March 10, 1805 370 

21. Letters of John James Audubon to Claude Francois Rozier, 
father, and to Ferdinand Rozier, son, immediately preceding 
and following his active partnership in business with the latter, 
1807 and 1812 • 373 


Audubon's Early Dated Drawings Made in France and 


Drawings now in the collections of Mr. Joseph Y. Jeanes of Philadel- 
phia, and formerly belonging to Mr. Edward Harris, of Moores- 
town, New Jersey; of Mr. John E. Thayer, Lancaster, Massachu- 
setts, and of Harvard University 375 


"The Birds of America" 

1. Final Lists of Subscribers to The Birds of America, folio edi- 
tion, as published by Audubon in 1839 380 

2. Prospectus of The Birds of America, as issued in 1828, when 
ten Numbers of the original folio were engraved . . .386 

3. Prospectus of the Second (partial) Edition of The Birds of 
America, issued by John Woodhouse Audubon, through Messrs. 
Trubner & Company, London, 1859 389 


Authentic Likenesses of Jean Jacques Fougere Audubon . . . .392 



Containing a fully annotated list of Audubon's writings, biographies, 

criticism, and Auduboniana * 01 

t ... 457 


Audubon. After a photograph of a cast of the intaglio cut by John 

C. King in 1844. Embossed medallion Cover 

Audubon. After the engraving by C. Turner, A.R.A., of the minia- 
ture on ivory painted by Frederick Cruikshank about 1831; "Lon- 
don. Published Jan. 12, 1835, for the Proprietor [supposed to 
have been the engraver, but may have been Audubon or Havell], 
by Robert Havell, Printseller, 77, Oxford Street." Photogra- 
vure Frontispiece 


Statue of Audubon by Edward Virginius Valentine in Audubon Park, 

New Orleans Facing 14 

The Audubon Monument in Trinity Cemetery, New York, on Chil- 
dren's Day, June, 1915 Facing 14 

Les Cayes, Haiti: the wharf and postoffiee .... Facing 40 

Les Cayes, Haiti: the market and Church of Sacre Coeur . Facing 40 

First page of the bill rendered by Dr. Sanson, of Les Cayes, Santo 
Domingo, to Jean Audubon for medical services from December 
29, 1783, to October 19, 1785 Facing 54 

Second page of the Sanson bill, bearing, in the entry for April 26, 
1785, the only record known to exist of the date of Audubon's 
birth Facing 55 

Third page of the Sanson bill, signed as accepted by Jean Audubon, 
October 12, 1786, and receipted by the doctor, when paid, June 7, 
1787 ........... Facing 54 

Audubon's signature at various periods. From early drawings, legal 

documents and letters ......... 63 

Lieutenant Jean Audubon and Anne Moynet Audubon. After por- 
traits painted between 1801 and 1806, now at Coueron . Facing 78 

Jean Audubon. After a portrait painted by the American artist 

Polk, at Philadelphia, about 1789 Facing 78 

Jean Audubon's signature. From a report to the Directory of his 
Department, when acting as Civil Commissioner, January to Sep- 
tember, 1793 79 

Certificate of Service which Lieutenant Audubon received upon his 

discharge from the French Navy, February 26, 1801 . . .84 




"Mill Grove" in 1835 (about). After a water-color painting by Charles 

Wetherill Facing 102 

"Mill Grove," Audubon, Pennsylvania, as it appears to-day . Facing 102 

"Mill Grove" farmhouse, west front, as it appears to-day . Facing 110 

"Fatland Ford," Audubon, Pennsylvania, the girlhood home of Lucy 

Bakewell Audubon Facing 110 

Early drawings of French birds, 1805, hitherto unpublished: the male 

Reed Bunting ("Sedge Sparrow"), and the male Redstart Facing 128 

Receipt given by Captain Sammis of the Polly to Audubon and Ferdi 
nand Rozier for their passage money from Nantes to New York, 
May 28, 1806 134 

"La Gerbetiere," Jean Audubon's country villa at Coueron, France, and 

the naturalist's boyhood home Facing 136 

"La Gerbetiere" and Coueron, as seen from the highest point in the 
commune, windmill towers on the ridge overlooking Port Launay, 
on the Loire Facing 142 

"La Gerbetiere," as seen when approached from Coueron village by the 

road to Port Launay Facing 142 

Port Launay on the Loire Facing 142 

Beginning of the "Articles of Association" of John James Audubon 

and Ferdinand Rozier, signed at Nantes, March 23, 1806 Facing 146 

First page of a power of attorney granted by Jean Audubon, Anne 
Moynet Audubon and Claude Francois Rozier to John James Au- 
dubon and Ferdinand Rozier, Nantes, April 4, 1806 . Facing 152 

Signatures of Jean Audubon, Anne Moynet Audubon, Dr. Chapelain 
and Dr. Charles d'Orbigny to a power of attorney granted to John 
James Audubon and Ferdinand Rozier, Coueron, November 20, 
1806 Facing 153 

Early drawings of French birds, 1805, hitherto unpublished: the Euro 
pean Crow, with detail of head of the Rook, and the White Wag- 
tail Facin 9 174 

Early drawing in crayon point of the groundhog, 1805, hitherto un- 
published Fac[n 9 182 

Water-color drawing of a young raccoon, 1841 . . . Facing 182 

Alexander Wilson Facing 212 

William Bartram Facin 9 213 

The "twin" Mississippi Kites of Wilson and Audubon, the similarity 
of which inspired charges of misappropriation against Audu- 
bon ... Facin ff 228 



Audubon's signature to the release given to Ferdinand Rozier on the 

dissolution of their partnership in 1811 ..... 242 

Ferdinand Rozier in his eighty-fifth year (1862) . . . Facing 246 

Rozier's old store at Ste. Genevieve, Kentucky . . . Facing 246 

Letter of Audubon to Ferdinand Rozier, signed "Audubon & Bake- 
well," and dated October 19, 1813, during the first partnership 
under this style ........... 251 

Audubon's Mill at Henderson, Kentucky, since destroyed, as seen from 

the bank of the Ohio River Facing 254 

An old street in the Coueron of today ..... Facing 264 

"Les Tourterelles," Coueron, final home of Anne Moynet Audubon, and 
the resting-place of exact records of the naturalist's birth and 
early life Facing 264 

Early drawings of American birds, 1808-9, hitherto unpublished: the 

Belted Kingfisher and the Wild Pigeon .... Facing 292 

Bayou Sara Landing, West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, at the junc- 
tion of Bayou Sara and the Mississippi River . . Facing 314 

Scene on Bayou Sara Creek, Audubon's hunting ground in 

1821 Facing 314 

Road leading from Bayou Sara Landing to the village of St. Franeis- 

ville, West Feliciana Parish Facing 318 

"Oakley," the James Pirrie plantation house near St. Francisville, where 
Audubon made some of his famous drawings while acting as a 
tutor in 1821 Facing 318 

An early letter of Audubon to Edward Harris, written at Philadel- 
phia, July 14, 1824 332 

Note of Dr. Samuel Latham Mitchell, written hurriedly in pencil, 
recommending Audubon to his friend, Dr. Barnes, August 4, 
1824 337 

Crayon portrait of Miss Jennett Benedict, an example of Audubon's 
itinerant portraiture. After the original drawn by Audubon at 
Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1824 Facing 342 

Miss Eliza Pirrie, Audubon's pupil at "Oakley" in 1821. After an 

oil portrait Facing 342 

Early drawing of the "Frog-eater," Cooper's Hawk, 1810, hitherto un- 
published Facing 348 

Pencil sketch of a "Shark, 7 feet long, off Cuba," from Audubon's 

Journal of his voyage to England in 1826 . . . Facing 348 

First page of Audubon's Journal of his voyage from New Orleans to 

Liverpool in 1826 Facing 349 



Cock Turkey, The Birds of America, Plate I. After the original 
engraving by W. H. Lizars, retouched by Robert Havell. 
Color Facing 358 

Title page of the original edition of The Birds of America, Volume II, 

1831-1834 381 

The Prothonotary Warbler plates, The Birds of America, Plate XI, 
bearing the legends of the engravers, W. H. Lizars and Robert 
Havell, Jr., but identical in every other detail of engrav- 
ing Facing 384 

Reverse of panels of Robert Havell's advertising folder reproduced 

on facing insert 386 

Outside engraved panels of an advertising folder issued by Robert 
Havell about 1834. After the only original copy known to 
exist Facing 386 

Inside engraved panels of Robert Havell's advertising folder, showing 

the interior of the "Zoological Gallery," 77 Oxford Street Facing 387 

Reverse of panels of Robert Havell's advertising folder, reproduced 

on facing insert 387 

Title page of Audubon's Prospectus of The Birds of America for 

1831 391 

English Pheasants surprised by a Spanish Dog. After a painting by 

Audubon in the American Museum of Natural History . Facing 394 

Letter of William Swainson to Audubon, May, 1828 . . . -402 
Audubon. After an oil portrait, hitherto unpublished, painted in 

1828 by C. W. Parker, an American artist . . • Facing 412 

Part of letter of Charles Lucien Bonaparte to Audubon, January 

10, 1829 417 

Mrs. Dickie's "Boarding Residence," 26 George Street, Edinburgh, 

where Audubon painted and wrote in 1826-27, and in 1830- 

qi ....••• Facing 438 

The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. After an old 

print Facin 9 438 

Title page of the Ornithological Biography, Volume I . . • .441 


Audubon. After a portrait by George P. A. Healy, 1838. Photo- 
gravure .......... Frontispiece 


"Beeehgrove," William Garrett Johnson's plantation house near St. 
Francisville, West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, where Mrs. Audu- 
bon lived and taught from 1827 to 1829 .... Facing 6 

John Bachman's house in Charleston, South Carolina . . Facing 6 

Early drawing in water color of the Carolina Parrot on branch of the 

hickory, 1811, hitherto unpublished Facing 20 

John Bachman at thirty-two. After an engraving by Charles C. Wright 

of a portrait by A. Fisher ....... Facing 32 

Robert Havell at eighty-five. After a photograph taken shortly before 

his death in 1878 Facing 32 

Letter of Dr. George Parkman to Audubon, May 25, 1833 . . .43 

Pileated Woodpeckers on the "Raccoon Grape," The Birds of America, 
Plate CXI. After the original engraving by Robert Havell, 1831. 
Color ........... Facing 46 

Letter of Robert Havell to Audubon, June 15, 1833 51 

John George Children Facing 64 

Edward Harris .......... Facing 64 

John Bachman .......... Facing 72 

George Ord Facing 72 

Samuel Latham Mitchell Facing 72 

Charles Waterton Facing 72 

Dr. Thomas Cooper, President of South Carolina College. After a con- 
temporary silhouette 78 

Vindication of Audubon's representation of the fangs of the southern 
rattlesnake as recurved at their tips. Detail from The Birds of 
America, Plate XXI, and photograph of the skull of a recent 
Florida specimen Facing 80 

Bluebirds on a stalk of the "great Mullein," The Birds of America, 
Plate CXIII. After the original engraving by Robert Havell, 1831. 
Color Facing 100 




William Swainson Facing 118 

Thomas Nuttall Facing 118 

Charles Lucien Bonaparte Facing 118 

Constantine Samuel Rafinesquc ...... Facing 118 

Audubon. After an engraving by H. B. Hall of a portrait painted by 

Henry Inman in 1833 Facing 126 

Letter of William MacGillivray to Audubon, October 22, 1834 . . .131 

Part of the original draft of Audubon's manuscript for the Introduc- 
tion to Volume II of the Ornithological Biography, giving list of 
names of persons to whom Audubon carried credentials on his first 
visit to London in 1827 Facing 133 

Audubon's inscription in a copy of the Ornithological Biography, which 

he presented to William MacGillivray in 1839 138 

Early drawings of American birds, 1807-12, hitherto unpublished: the 

Whippoorwill and the American Robin, with details . . Facing 144 

Bust of Audubon by William Couper, in front and profile views. After 
the original in the American Museum of Natural History, New 
York Facing 160 

Life mask of Audubon, hitherto unpublished, in front and profile views. 
After the original made by Robert Havell in London, now in pos- 
session of the Museum of Comparative Zoology of Harvard Uni- 
verstty Facing 178 

Canvas-backed Ducks, with distant view of the city of Baltimore, Mary- 
land, The Birds of America, Plate CCCI. After the original en- 
graving by Robert Havell, 1836. Color .... Facing 196 

Victor Gifford Audubon Facing 210 

John Woodhouse Audubon Facing 210 

Title page of the paper covers in which parts of the first American 

(octavo) edition of The Birds of America were originally issued . 213 

Audubon. After a portrait painted by John Woodhouse and Victor 

Gifford Audubon about 1841 Facing 226 

"Minnie's Land," Audubon's home on the Hudson River, as it appeared 

in 1865. After a lithograph in Valentine's Manual . . Facing 236 

"Minnie's Land," as it appeared in 1917 from the river front, pocketed 

by the retaining wall of Riverside Drive . . . Facing 236 

Audubon, with gun, horse, and dog. After a painting by John Wood- 
house Audubon about 1841 . ..... Facing 244 

Letter of Edward Harris to Audubon, January 31, 1843 . . . 251 



Drawings for The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America: the Amer- 
ican or Canada porcupine and rabbits. After the originals in water 
color in the American Museum of Natural History, New York 

Facing 264 

Title page of Volume I of the English edition of the text of The Vivip- 
arous Quadrupeds of North America 275 

John W. Audubon's inscription in a copy of Volume I of the text of 

the Quadrupeds (English edition), presented to John Edward Gray 280 

Audubon. After an engraving by Nordheim of a daguerreotype possi- 
bly earlier than 1849 Facing 280 

Audubon. After his last portrait, a daguerreotype made in New York 

about 1850 Facing 280 

Letter of John Bachman to George Oates, November 7, 1846 . . . 282 

Audubon's last (?) letter to Edward Harris, February 22, 1847 . . 287 

House formerly belonging to Victor Gifford Audubon, east front, as it 

appears to-day Facing '294 

House formerly belonging to John Woodhouse Audubon, south front, 

as it appears to-day Facing 294 

Lucy Bakewell Audubon. After a miniature painted by Frederick 

Cruikshank in London, about 1831 Facing 304 

Lucy Bakewell Audubon. After an unpublished photograph of 1871 . 

Facing 304 



April 26. — Fougere, Jean Rabin, or Jean Jacques Fougere 
Audubon, born at Les Cayes, Santo Domingo, now Haiti. 


Fougere, at four years, and Muguet, his sister by adoption, at 
two, are taken by their father to the United States, and 
thence to France. 

179 b 

March 7 {17 ventose, an 2). — Fougere, when nine years old, 
and Muguet at six, are legally adopted as the children of 
Jean Audubon and Anne Moynet, his wife. 


October 23 (1 brumaire, an 9). — Baptized, Jean Jacques Fou- 
gere, at Nantes, when in his sixteenth year. 


Studies drawing for a brief period under Jacques Louis David, 
at Paris. 


First return to America, at eighteen, to learn English and 
enter trade: settles at "Mill Grove" farm, near Phila- 
delphia, where he spends a vear and begins his studies of 
American birds. 




December 15. — Half-interest in "Mill Grove" acquired by 
Francis Dacosta, who begins to exploit its lead mine; he 
also acts as guardian to young Audubon, who becomes 
engaged to Lucy Green Bakewell; quarrel with Dacosta 


January 12-15 (?). — Walks to New York, where Benjamin 
Bakewell supplies him with passage money to France. 

January 18 (about). — Sails on the Hope for Nantes, and ar- 
rives about March 18. 

A year spent at "La Gerbetiere," in Coueron, where he hunts 
birds with D'Orbigny and makes many drawings, and at 
Nantes, where plans are made for his return, with Ferdi- 
nand Rozier, to America. 


Enters the French navy at this time, or earlier, but soon with- 

March 23. — A business partnership is arranged with Ferdinand 
Rozier, and Articles of Association are signed at Nantes. 

April 12. — Sails with Rozier on the Polly, Captain Sammis, and 
lands in New York on May 26. 

They settle at "Mill Grove" farm, where they remain less than 
four months, meanwhile making unsuccessful attempts to 
operate the lead mine on the property. 

September 15. — Remaining half interest in "Mill Grove" farm 
and mine acquired by Francis Dacosta & Company, condi- 
tionally, the Audubons and Roziers holding a mortgage. 


Serves as clerk in Benjamin Bakewell's commission house in 
New York, but continues his studies and drawings of birds, 
and works for Dr. Mitchell's Museum. 



With Rozier decides to embark in trade in Kentucky. 
August 1. — They purchase their first stock of goods in New 

August 31. — Starts with Rozier for Louisville, where they open 

a pioneer store. 
Their business suffers from the Embargo Act. 


April 5. — Married to Lucy Bakewell at "Fatland Ford," her 
father's farm near Philadelphia, and returns with his bride 
to Louisville. 


June 12. — Victor Gifford Audubon born at Gwathway's hotel, 
the "Indian Queen," in Louisville. 


March. — Alexander Wilson, pioneer ornithologist, visits Audu- 
bon at Louisville. 

Moves down river with Rozier to Redbanks (Henderson), Ken- 

December. — Moves with Rozier again, and is held up by ice at 
the mouth of the Ohio and at the Great Bend of the Mis- 
sissippi, where they spend the winter. 


Reaches Sainte Genevieve, Upper Louisiana (Missouri), in 

early spring. 
April 6. — Dissolves partnership with Rozier, and returns to 

Henderson afoot. 
Joins in a commission business with his brother-in-law, Thomas 

W. Bakewell. 
December.- — Meets Vincent Nolte when returning to Louisville 

from the East, and descends the Ohio in his flatboat. 



The annus mirabilis in Kentucky, marked by a series of earth- 
quakes, which begins December 16, 1811, and furnishes 
material for "Episodes." 

Commission house of Audubon and Bakewell is opened by the 
latter in New Orleans, but is quickly suppressed by the 
war, which breaks out in June. 

Spring. — Starts a retail store, on his own account, at Hender- 

November 30. — John Woodhouse Audubon, born at "Meadow 
Brook" farm, Dr. Adam Rankin's home near Henderson. 


Storekeeping at Henderson, where he purchases four town 
lots and settles down. 


March 16. — Enters into another partnership with Bakewell; 
planning to build a steam grist- and sawmill at Henderson, 
they lease land on the river front. 


Thomas W. Pears joins the partnership, and the steam mill, 
which later became famous, is erected. (After long disuse 
or conversion to other purposes, "Audubon's Mill" was 
finally burned to the ground on March 18, 1913.) 


Summer. — Receives a visit from Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, 
who becomes the subject of certain practical jokes, at 
zoology's future expense, and figures in a later "Episode." 



After repeated change of partners, the mill enterprise fails, 
and Audubon goes to Louisville jail for debt; declares him- 
self a bankrupt, and saves only his clothes, his drawings 
and gun. Resorts to doing crayon portraits at Shipping- 
port and Louisville, where he is immediately successful. 


At Cincinnati, to fill an appointment as taxidermist in the 
Western Museum, just founded by Dr. Daniel Drake; set- 
tles with his family and works three or four months, at a 
salary of $125 a month ; then returns to portraits, and 
starts a drawing school. 


Decides to publish his "Ornithology," and all his activities are 
now directed to this end. 

October 12. — Leaves his family, and with Joseph R. Mason, as 
pupil-assistant, starts without funds on a long expedition 
down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, to New Orleans, 
hoping to visit Arkansas, and intending to explore the 
country for birds, while living by his talents: from this 
time keeps a regular journal and works systematically. 


January 7. — Enters New Orleans with young Mason without 
enough money to pay for a night's lodging. 

February 17. — Sends his wife 20 drawings, including the famous 
Turkey Hen, Great-footed Hawk, and White-headed 

Obtains a few drawing pupils ; is recommended by John Vander- 
lyn and Governor Robertson, but lives from hand to mouth 
until June 16, when Audubon and Mason leave for Ship- 
pingport ; a fellow passenger, Mrs. James Pirrie, of West 
Feliciana, offers Audubon a position as tutor to her daugh- 
ter, and with Mason he settles on her plantation at St. 
Francisville, Bayou Sara, where he remains nearly five 
months ; some of his finest drawings are made at this time. 


October 21. — Leaves abruptly and returns with Mason to New 
Orleans, where he again becomes a drawing teacher, and 
resumes his studies of birds with even greater avidity. 

December. — Is joined by his family, and winter finds them in 
dire straits. 


March 16. — To Natchez with Mason, paying their passage by 
doing portraits of the captain and his wife ; while on the 
way finds that many of his drawings have been seriously 
damaged by gunpowder ; teaches French, drawing and 
dancing at Natchez, and Washington, Mississippi. 

July 23. — Parts with Mason, after giving him his gun, paper 
and chalks, with which to work his way north. 

September. — Mrs. Audubon, who was acting as governess in a 
family at New Orleans, joins him at Natchez, where she 
obtains a similar position. 

Receives his first lessons in the use of oils from John Stein, 
itinerant portrait painter, in Natchez, at close of this 


January. — Mrs. Audubon is engaged by the Percys, of West 
Feliciana parish, Louisiana, and starts a private school at 
"Beechwoods," belonging to their plantation, in St. Fran- 
cisville, where she remains five years. 

March. — Audubon leaves Natchez with John Stein and Victor 
on a painting tour of the South, but meeting with little suc- 
cess, they disband at New Orleans ; visits his wife, and 
spends part of summer in teaching her pupils music and 

Adrift again ; both he and Victor are taken ill with fever at 
Natchez, but when nursed back to health by Mrs. Audu- 
bon, they return with her to "Beechwoods." 

September 30. — Determined to visit Philadelphia in the inter- 
ests of his "Ornithology," he sends on his drawings and 
goes to New Orleans for references. 

October 3. — Starts with Victor for Louisville, walking part of 
the way. 



Winter spent at Shippingport, where Victor becomes a clerk 

to his uncle, Nicholas A. Berthoud. 
Paints portraits, panels on river boats, and even street signs, 

to earn a living. 


To Philadelphia, to find patrons or a publisher; thwarted; is 
advised to take his drawings to Europe, where the engrav- 
ing could be done in superior style; befriended by Charles 
L. Bonaparte, Edward Harris, Richard Harlan, Mr. Fair- 
man, and Thomas Sully, who gives him free tuition in oils. 

August 1. — Starts for New York, with letters to Gilbert Stuart, 
Washington Allston, and Samuel L. Mitchell ; is kindly re- 
ceived and made a member of the Lyceum of Natural His- 

August 15. — To Albany, Rochester, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, 
Meadville, and Pittsburgh, taking deck passage on boats, 
tramping, and paying his way by crayon portraits. 

September. — Leaves Pittsburgh on exploring tour of Lakes On- 
tario and Champlain for birds ; decides on his future 

October 24- — Returns to Pittsburgh, and descends the Ohio in 
a skiff; is stranded without a cent at Cincinnati ; visits Vic- 
tor at Shippingport, and reaches his wife in St. Francis- 
ville, Bayou Sara, November 24. 


Teaches at St. Francisville, and gives dancing lessons at Wood- 
ville, Mississippi, to raise funds to go to Europe. 


May 17. — Sails with his drawings on the cotton schooner Delos, 
bound for Liverpool, where he lands, a total stranger, on 
July 21. 


In less than a week is invited to exhibit his drawings at the 
Royal Institution, and is at once proclaimed as a great 
American genius. 

Exhibits at Manchester, but with less success. 

Plans to publish his drawings, to be called The Birds of Amer- 
ica, in parts of five plates each, at 2 guineas a part, all to 
be engraved on copper, to the size of life, and colored after 
his originals. The number of parts was at first fixed at 80, 
and the period of publication at 14 years ; eventually there 
were 87 parts, of 435 plates, representing over a thousand 
individual birds as well as thousands of American trees, 
shrubs, flowers, insects and other animals of the entire con- 
tinent ; the cost in England was £174, which was raised by 
the duties to $1,000 in America. 

Paints animal pictures to pay his way, and opens a subscription 

October 26. — Reaches Edinburgh, where his pictures attract 
the attention of. the ablest scientific and literary characters 
of the day, and he is patronized by the aristocracy. 

November, early. — William Home Lizars begins the engraving 
of his first plates at Edinburgh, and on the 28th, shows 
him the proof of the Turkey Cock. 

Honors come to him rapidly, and he is soon elected to mem- 
bership in the leading societies of science and the arts in 
Great Britain, France and the United States. 


February 3. — Exhibits the first number of his engraved plates 
at the Royal Institution of Edinburgh. 

March 17. — Issues his "Prospectus," when two numbers of his 
Birds are ready. 

April 5. — Starts for London with numerous letters to distin- 
guished characters and obtains subscriptions on the way. 

May 21. — Reaches London, and exhibits his plates before the 
Linnaean and Royal Societies, which later elect him to fel- 

Lizars throws up the work after engraving ten plates, and it is 
transferred to London, where, in the hands of Robert 


Havell, Junior, it is new born and brought to successful 

completion eleven years later. 
Summer. — Affairs at a crisis ; resorts to painting and canvasses 

the larger cities. 
December. — Five parts, or twenty-five plates, of The Birds of 

America completed. 


March. — Visits Cambridge and Oxford Universities ; though 
well received, is disappointed at the number of subscribers 
secured, especially at Oxford. 

September 1. — To Paris with William Swainson ; remains eight 
weeks, and obtains 13 subscribers ; his work is eulogized by 
Cuvier before the Academy of Natural Sciences, and he re- 
ceives the personal subscription, as well as private commis- 
sions, from the Duke of Orleans, afterwards known as 
Louis Philippe. 


April 1. — Sails from Portsmouth on his first return to America 
from England, for New York, where he lands on May 1. 

Summer. — Drawing birds at Great Egg Harbor, New Jersey. 

September. — To Mauch Chunk, and paints for six weeks at a 
lumberman's cottage in the Great Pine Woods. 

October. — Down the Ohio to Louisville, where he meets his two 
sons, one of whom he had not seen for five years ; thence 
to St. Francisville, Bayou Sara, where he joins his wife, 
from whom he had been absent nearly three years. 


January 1. — Starts with his wife for Europe, first visiting New 
Orleans, Louisville, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Washing- 
ton, where he meets the President, Andrew Jackson, and is 
befriended by Edward Everett, who becomes one of his first 
American subscribers. 

April 1. — Sails with Mrs. Audubon from New York for Liver- 
pool. Settles in London ; takes his seat in the Royal Soci- 


ety, to which he was elected on the 19th of March ; resumes 
his painting, and in midsummer starts with his wife on a 
canvassing tour of the provincial towns ; invites William 
Swainson to assist him in editing his letterpress, but a dis- 
agreement follows. 
Changes his plans, and settles again in Edinburgh ; meets Wil- 
liam MacGillivray, who undertakes to assist him with his 
manuscript, and together they begin the first volume of 
the Ornithological Biography in October. 


The Ornithological Biography, in five volumes, published at 
Edinburgh, and partly reissued in Philadelphia and Bos- 


In America, exploring the North and South Atlantic coasts 
for birds. 


March. — First volume of the Ornithological Biography pub- 
lished, representing the text of the first 100 double-ele- 
phant folio plates. 

April 15. — Returns with his wife to London. 

May-July. — Visits Paris again in the interests of his publica- 

August 2. — Starts with his wife on his second journey from 
England to America, and lands in New York on Septem- 
ber 4. 

Plans to visit Florida with two assistants, and obtains prom- 
ise of aid from the Government. 

October-November. — At Charleston, South Carolina, where he 
meets John Bachman and is taken into his home. 

November 15. — Sails with his assistants in the government 
schooner Agnes for St. Augustine. 



April 15. — In revenue cutter Marion begins exploration of the 

east coast of Florida ; proceeds to Key West, and later 

returns to Savannah and Charleston. 
Rejoins his family at Philadelphia, and goes to Boston; there 

meets Dr. George Parkman, and makes many friends. 
August.- — Explores the coasts of Maine and New Brunswick, 

and ascends the St. John River for birds. 
Returns to Boston, and sends his son Victor to England to take 

charge of his publications. 


Winter. — In Boston, where he is attacked b}r a severe illness 
induced by overwork ; quickly recovers and plans expedi- 
tion to Labrador. 


June 6. — Sails from Eastport for the Labrador with five assist- 
ants, including his son, John Woodhouse Audubon, in 
the schooner Ripley chartered at his own expense. 

August 31. — Returns to Eastport laden with spoils, including 
few new birds but many drawings. 

September 7. — Reaches New York and plans an expedition to 

September 25. — Visits Philadelphia and is arrested for debt, an 
echo of his business ventures in Kentucky ; obtains sub- 
scribers at Baltimore, and in Washington meets Washing- 
ton Irving, who assists him in obtaining government aid ; 
finds patrons at Richmond and at Columbia, South Caro- 

October 2J+. — Reaches Charleston and changes his plans; with 
his wife and son passes the winter at the Bachman home, 
engaged in hunting, drawing and writing. 


The number of his American subscribers reaches 62. 

April 16. — Sails with his wife and son on the packet North 

America from New York to England with large collections. 
Settles again in Edinburgh, and begins second volume of his 

Biography, which is published in December. 


Many drawings, papers and books lost by fire in New York. 
Part of summer, autumn and winter in Edinburgh, where the 
third volume of his Ornithological Biography is issued in 


Audubon's two sons, who have become his assistants, tour the 
Continent for five months, traveling and painting. 

August 2. — Sails from Portsmouth on his third journey from 
England to the United States ; lands in New York on 
Sept. 6 and canvasses the city. 

September 13. — Hurries to Philadelphia to obtain access to the 
Nuttall-Townsend collection of birds, recently brought 
from the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Coast ; is rebuffed, 
and bitter rivalries ensue ; Edward Harris offers to buy 
the collection outright for his benefit. 

September 20. — Starts on a canvassing tour to Boston, where 
he meets many prominent characters, and obtains a letter 
of commendation from Daniel Webster, who writes his 
name in his subscription book. Visits Salem, where sub- 
scribers are also obtained ; meets Thomas M. Brewer, and 
Thomas Nuttall, who offers him his new birds brought 
from the West. 

October 10. — Is visited by Washington Irving, who gives him 
letters to President Van Buren and recommends his work 
to national patronage. 

October 15. — Returns to Philadelphia, where attempts to obtain 
permission to describe the new birds in the Nuttall-Town- 
send collection are renewed ; he is finally permitted to pur- 
chase duplicates and describe the new forms under cer- 
tain conditions. 

November 10. — To Washington, to present his credentials, and 
is promised government aid for the projected journey to 
Florida and Texas. 


Winter. — Spent with Bachman at Charleston, in waiting for 
his promised vessel ; makes drawings of Nuttall's and 
Townsend's birds, and plans for a work on the Quadrupeds 
of North America. 



Spring. — Starts overland with Edward Harris and John W. 
Audubon for New Orleans ; there meets the revenue cutter 
Campbell, and in her and her tender, the Crusader, the 
party proceeds as far as Galveston, Texas ; visits President 
Sam Houston. 

May 18. — Leaves for New Orleans, and on June 8 reaches 
Charleston. John Woodhouse Audubon is married to 
Bachman's eldest daughter, Maria Rebecca. 

To Washington, and meets President Martin Van Buren. 

July 16. — Sails with his son and daughter-in-law on the packet 
England from New York ; reaches Liverpool on August 2d, 
and on the 7th is in London. 

The panic of this year causes loss of many subscribers, but 
Audubon decides to extend The Birds of America to 87 
parts, in order to admit every new American bird discov- 
ered up to that time. 


June W. — Eighty-seventh part of The Birds of America pub- 
lished, thus completing the fourth volume and concluding 
the work, which was begun at Edinburgh in the autumn of 


Summer. — By way of a holiday celebration tours the High- 
lands of Scotland with his family and William MacGilli- 

Autumn. — To Edinburgh, where, with the assistance of Mac- 
Gillivray, the fourth volume of his Biography is issued in 


May. — Fifth and concluding volume of the Ornithological Bi- 
ography is published at Edinburgh. A Synopsis of the 
Birds of North America, which immediately follows, brings 
his European life and labors to a close. 


Late summer. — Returns with his family to New York, and set- 
tles at 86 White Street. Victor, who preceded his father 
to America, is married to Mary Eliza Bachman. 

Projects at once a small or "miniature" edition of his Orni- 
thology, and begins work on the Quadrupeds. Collabora- 
tion of Bachman in this project is later secured. 


First octavo edition of The Birds of America is published at 
Philadelphia, in seven volumes, with lithographic, colored 
plates and meets with unprecedented success ; issued to 
subscribers in 100 parts, of five plates each with text, at 
one dollar a part. 


June. — Begins a correspondence with young Spencer F. Baird, 
which leads to an intimate friendship of great mutual 
benefit, Baird discovering new birds and sending him 
many specimens. 


Purchases land on the Hudson, in Carmansville, at the present 
157th Street, and begins to build a house. 

July 29. — Writes to Spencer F. Baird that he was then as anx- 
ious about the publication of the Quadrupeds as he ever 
was about procuring birds. 


April. — Occupies his estate, now included in the realty section 
of upper New York City called Audubon Park, which he 
deeded to his wife and named for her "Minnie's Land." 

September 12. — Starts on a canvassing tour of Canada, going 
as far north as Quebec, and returns well pleased with his 
success, after spending a month and traveling 1,500 miles. 

Plans for his western journey nearly completed. 



March 11. — At fifty-eight, sets out with four companions for 
the region of the Upper Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers, 
but is unable to attain his long desired goal, the Rocky 

November. — Returns with many new birds and mammals. 


The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, in collabora- 
tion with the Rev. John Bachman, issued to subscribers 
in 30 parts of five plates each, without letterpress, making 
two volumes, imperial folio, at $300.00. 

John W. Audubon, traveling in Texas, to collect materials for 
his father's work. 


Engrossed with drawings of the Quadrupeds, in which he re- 
ceives efficient aid from his sons. 

July 19. — Copper plates of The Birds of America injured by 
fire in New York. 

December 24- — Bachman, his collaborator, issues ultimatum 
through Harris, but work on the Quadrupeds, which had 
come to a stand, is resumed. 


John W. Audubon in England, painting subjects for the illus- 
tration of the Quadrupeds of North America. 


The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, in collabora- 
tion with John Bachman, published in three volumes, 
octavo, text only, by J. J. and V. G. Audubon; volume i 
(184-7) only appeared during the naturalist's lifetime. 


Audubon's powers begin to weaken and rapidly fail. 


February 8. — John W. Audubon joins a California company 
organized by Colonel James Watson Webb, and starts 
for the gold fields, but his party meets disaster in the 
valley of the Rio Grande; he leads a remnant to their 
destination and returns in the following year. 


January 27. — Jean Jacques Fougere Audubon dies at "Min- 
nie's Land," before completing his sixty-sixth year. 



Was John James Audubon Louis Charles, Dauphin and 
Duke of Normandy, who by hereditary right became titular 
King of France at the moment the head of his father, Louis 
XVI, fell under the guillotine in Paris, January 21, 1793? 
Was he the little boy prince who was "in the way" and "not 
wanted" by his uncles and many of his countrymen, his poten- 
tial subjects? Was he that unfortunate child who, orphaned 
by regicides, was held a close prisoner for nearly three im- 
pressionable years of his young life? Was he the boy who, 
in consequence of such treatment, according to some reports, 
developed a tendency to scrofula which we should now call 
tuberculosis? Finally, was he the ten-year-old child who was 
officially declared to have died in the Temple prison, June 7, 
1795, a conclusion which many historians accepted, although 
some have maintained that the true prince was spirited out of 
the Tower, but when or how, or where or how long he may 
have lived, are questions which have never been answered with 
complete certainty. 

When we consider the fierce partisanship engendered dur- 
ing the Revolution, and the wide breach between what con- 
temporaries spoke or wrote and what they really thought or 
believed, the testimony of eye-witnesses to events in or about 
the Temple must be considered very untrustworthy. Moreover, 
the failure of one hundred and forty years of hot debate to 
throw any clear light on the ultimate fate of the Dauphin tends 
more and more to convince us that he was "lost" only in the 
sense that he had died. If this be the hard truth, what more 
vain than refuting the claims of pretenders or their descend- 
ants ? 



Whatever convictions historians may have reached upon 
this issue to-day, the questions respecting Audubon can re- 
ceive but one answer — a decisive negative. I repeat them only 
because they have been seriously asked and, incredible as it 
may seem, have been given a warm welcome by two recent 
biographers. 1 

Miss Rourke mentions a number of reasons which have led 
her to favor the fantastic Dauphin idea. The fact that Au- 
dubon was first called "Fougere," and later "Jean Rabin," 
while for a time he used the name "Laforest" is cited with 
suspicion. When Captain Jean Audubon finally returned from 
Santo Domingo to France, late in 1789, "how many children," 
she asks, "did he bring with him" ; and, "if he was accompanied 
by a little boy, there is no certainty," she says, "that this was 
the same boy who was adopted as Fougere, three years later." 
If this were not the same boy, neither she nor Mrs. Tyler knows 
what became of the first or has any proof that Audubon was 
a substitute child. There was a long period, says Miss Rourke, 
between Audubon's birth (April 26, 1785) and his adoption 
(March 7, 1794) of nearly nine years, and "this gap has never 
been filled in. Where was this boy during this time? It is 
well within the range of possibility that after his return to 
France during the Revolution, a boy was entrusted to the 
care of Captain Audubon whose identity he was induced to 
hide. He may have used the approximate birthday and later 
the name of the little boy born in Santo Domingo to cover the 
history of another child. Some of those closest to Audubon 
during his lifetime believed implicitly that he was of noble 

Miss Maria R. Audubon, the naturalist's granddaughter, 
stated to me in 1914 that Jean Audubon and his wife settled 
some property upon "Jean Rabin, creole de Saint-Domingue," 
which he refused to accept under that name, saying, "My own 
name I have never been permitted even to speak ; accord me 

1 See Audubon, by Constance Rourke (New York, 1936), and / Who 
Should Command All, by Alice Jaynes Tyler (New Haven, 1937). 


that of Audubon, which I revere, as I have cause to do.'* This 
reference to property probably had to do with the wills of his 
father and stepmother, in which the objectionable name occurs 
many times. Audubon's dislike of the Rabin name does not 
seem to have persisted, for in view of the settlement of prop- 
erty under those wills, on July 25, 1817, a power of attorney 
was drawn in favor of his brother-in-law, Gabriel Loyen du 
Puigaudeau. In this curious document the naturalist refers 
to himself as "John Audubon" and as "Jean Rabin, husband 
of Lucy Bakewell." The Jean Rabin alias occurs four times 
in the text, over the signature of "John J. Audubon" at the 

An English reviewer once expressed regret that I had 
probed the birth and parentage of Audubon, saying that he 
preferred to take this illustrious man at his word that he 
"belonged to every country." Such writers forget that a prime 
duty of every biographer is to make his subject known, and 
that this is impossible if he comes from nowhere, or, as John 
Neal facetiously remarked, if he is "one of those extraordinary 
men who are erected, — never born at all." Audubon's father 
"had other reasons," thinks Miss Rourke, "for sending Fou- 
gere to America which he did not disclose. . . . They could 
not have had to do with money. . . . Whatever his reasons 
were they persisted, and may have had to do with the boy's 

Mrs. Tyler begins her book with a quotation, "Historv has 
the inalienable right to be written correctly," to which every 
honest person will subscribe, but which writers of biography are 
too apt to forget. Throughout her book she refers to me as 
"Robert," a praenomen I have never borne, but since names 
are easily confused, I forgive her. The naturalist's father, 
Jean Audubon, is called the "Admiral," a title he never bore, 
which gives a sense of unreality to her text. The highest rank 
that Jean attained in the French navy was lieutenant (lieu- 
tenant de vaisseaua), one grade below that of captain. In my 
Audubon the Naturalist I gave a summary of the naval career 


of his father in the merchant marine and navy of France, hav- 
ing obtained access in wartime to the official records of the 
navy department in Paris through the good offices of our 
ambassador, the late Hon. Myron T. Herrick. Jean Audubon 
held the rank of lieutenant from October 11, 1797, until his 
retirement for disability on January 1, 1801. Perhaps Mrs. 
Tyler followed the example of Miss Maria R. Audubon, who 
was accustomed to give this exalted rank to her grandfather; 
and perhaps Miss Audubon got it from a letter that Audubon 
carried with him when leaving Edinburgh for London, written 
by a Mr. Hay, and addressed March 15, 1827, to his brother, 
Robert William Hay, Downing Street, West, in which this 
statement occurs : "Mr. Audubon is a son of the late French 
Admiral Audubon, but has himself lived from the cradle in the 
United States, having been born in one of the French colonies." 
Audubon certainly should have known his father's naval rank, 
and also that he could not have lived from the cradle in the 
United States, but the last statement is now believed to have 
been true. 

Strong presumptive evidence had led me to conclude that 
John James Audubon was the illegitimate son of Lieutenant 
Jean Audubon and Mademoiselle Rabin, a French Creole of 
Santo Domingo. "Rather than tolerate the suggestion of ille- 
gitimacy in regard to their grandfather," says Mrs. Tyler, "the 
old ladies decided to bear the rigors of publicity if needs be, 
and to give to the world the information which would disprove 
this biography. To that end they released me from the promise 
to withhold publication of their 'secret,' and perhaps the world's 
secret also." This family secret of Audubon's noble birth, 
which is revealed in Mrs. Tyler's / Who Should Command All, 
was imparted by the naturalist in extracts from his private 
journals, sometimes sent in letters to his wife, and apparently 
written for her benefit alone, with no thought of their publica- 
tion. The significant passages were copied by his granddaugh- 
ter, Miss Maria R. Audubon, into a little black note-book, 
which I was permitted to see in 1914, but, out of respect to 


her wishes and those of her sister, Miss Florence Audubon, they 
were only briefly referred to in my biography of their grand- 
father in 1917. In the course of our conversation, Miss Maria 
confessed that she had really never known who her grandfather 
was, but that in the light of these journal entries she had come 
to think that he was — or, perhaps she said, might have been — 
the lost Dauphin. In commenting on this question, Miss Audu- 
bon added that a gentleman to whom these extracts had been 
shown had said that possibly they had been written to obscure 
the unwelcome fact of illegitimacy, a wise remark, as the sequel 
has shown. I tried to dissuade Miss Audubon from her ex- 
pressed intention of destroying the original manuscript, but to 
no avail. 

The entries in this note-book, which form the basis of Mrs. 
Tyler's / Who Should Command All, have recently been pub- 
lished by Stanley Clisby Arthur in his careful biography. 2 
Mrs. Tyler says that I have "not recorded one biographical 
event between the year 1794, the date of Audubon's adoption, 
and 1800, the date of his baptism," and tries to put young 
Audubon in "Selkirk's Settlements," in Canada, at some time 
between these early years. All of these questions will be taken 
up later. 


In 1914, at the very outbreak of the World War, a great 
flock of documents pertaining to Lieutenant Audubon and his 
family was discovered at Coueron, the seat of his country villa 
in France. Outstanding among them was the curious bill of 
Jean Audubon's family physician, Doctor Sanson, of Les Cayes, 
Santo Domingo, covering a period of nearly three years, 1783 
to 1786. 3 This is particularly remarkable for recording the 
birth of a child to Mademoiselle Rabin on April 26, 1785. The 

2 See Audubon: An Intimate Life of the American Woodsman (Bibl. 
No. 264). 

3 See the reproduction of this bill in Chapter IV, and for translation, 
Appendix I. 


inference, supported by other documentary testimony, was that 
this referred to the identical child who later became John James 
Audubon and who was baptised in 1800 as Jean Jacques 
Fougere (Audubon). 

Jean and Anne Moynet Audubon adopted this boy Fougere, 
then nine years old, and a seven-year-old girl, Muguet or Rosa, 
born also in Santo Domingo but to another woman, at Nantes 
on March 7, 1794. 4 

The Jean Rabin alias was used in the six wills drawn by 
Lieutenant Audubon and his wife, and in the power of attorney 
of Audubon himself to which I have referred. 5 It is these vari- 
ous legal documents, usually drawn under oath and attested 
by witnesses, that Miss Rourke and Mrs. Tyler set aside as "not 
proven" ; yet they do not hesitate to place Audubon at the 
foot of a long list of spurious claimants to being the son of 
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, without a shred of docu- 
mentary support to such a claim excepting the family tradi- 
tion based upon extracts from Audubon's private journals 
which were intended for the perusal of his wife alone — and this 
in view of the further fact that it has never been definitely 
proven that the Dauphin did not die in the Temple or shortly 
after leaving it. 


It is generally assumed that the person whose parents and 
near relatives are no longer living knows more about his early 
history than anybody else, and this is generally true, except 
in the case of a child's early adoption, substitution, or aban- 
donment by its true parents. 

What Audubon said publicly or privately about his birth, 
his age, and his parents forms a mystifying record. According 
to Vincent Nolte, Audubon, after parrying some prying ques- 

* For translation of texts of the acts of adoption and baptisms, see Vol. 
I, pp. 59-61. 

6 For power of attorney, see Vol. I, p. 64, note, and for wills, Vol. I, 
p. 262, and Vol. II, pp. 360-368- 


tions about himself in 1811, admitted that he was a Frenchman 
by birth and a native of La Rochelle. 

Joseph Robert Mason, youthful companion of Audubon on 
his famous journey down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in 
1820-21, who was thus closely associated with him for twenty- 
one months, told John Neal, fifteen years later, that Audubon 
had repeatedly represented to him that he was born in Santo 
Domingo. A statement to this effect was also made by James 
J. Walsh in 1904. 6 Audubon's journal record of this river 
journey, which I was permitted to examine rather cursorily 
twenty years ago, was published in 1929 and is commented on 
by Mr. Arthur. 7 While fortunate in escaping the fire and 
general mutilation by injudicious hands, this record has been 
tampered with at one critical point — in the entry for Novem- 
ber 28, 1820, where Audubon spoke of his birth and parentage 
and related incidents which he thought that his family in the 
future might wish to know. The mutilator of his text, how- 
ever, did not succeed in forever obscuring what the writer pre- 
sumably intended to convey. In the two lines at this point that 
have been blotted out as effectively with a pen as could have 
been done with an ink-filled brush, we can reasonably infer that 
Audubon gave his own mother's name and either stated or im- 
plied that he was born out of wedlock and in Santo Domingo. 
This inference seems to be justified by the addition in what im- 
mediately follows, with the same kind of ink and probably by the 
same hand, of the prefix "re" to the word "married." As origi- 
nally written by Audubon, the entry reads: "My Mother, who 
I have been told was an extraordinary beautiful Woman, died 
shortly after my Birth and my father having married in France 
I was removed thereto when only Two Years old and received 
by that Rest of Women, raised and cherished by her to the 
utmost of her Means . . ." It is evident that the person who 

"See James J. Walsh, Bibl. No. 240. 

7 See Journal of John James Audubon, Bibl. No. 250, and for repro- 
duction of the mutilated manuscript, Stanley Clisby Arthur, Bibl. No. 264, 
p. 118. 


obliterated those two lines and changed "married" to "remar- 
ried" was determined to make it appear that Captain Audubon 
had been first married to his boy's mother, and that after her 
death he took their child to France, where he was married again, 
this time to the woman who became the boy's stepmother, when 
the truth, as Audubon had stated it, was just the opposite. 

A few years later, about 1824, when Audubon and his wife 
were living at "Beechwoods," a plantation near St. Francisville, 
Louisiana, the wife of his old friend and former clerk, Dr. 
Nathaniel Wells Pope, left a record of her reminiscences, quoted 
by Stanley Clisby Arthur, in which she said that Audubon had 
often described to her the cottage in which he was born that 
was situated on the banks of the Mississippi River, in Lower 
Louisiana, and surrounded by orange trees. 

At Oxford in 1828 a lady who wanted his autograph asked 
Audubon to write his name and the date of his birth. The 
latter, he said, he could not do, "except approximately," and 
his hostess "was greatly amused that he should not know." As 
I have already noted, Audubon appears to have told Mr. Hay, 
a friend at Edinburgh, in March, 1827, that he was born in 
one of the French colonies. 

In the Introduction to the first volume of his Ornithological 
Biography, Audubon, who was under no necessity of saying 
anything about his birth, made the vague affirmation, "I re- 
ceived life and light in the New World," and continued : "When 
I had hardly yet learned to walk, and to articulate those first 
words always so endearing to parents, the productions of na- 
ture that lay spread all around, were constantly pointed out 
to me" ; and in the biographical sketch "Myself" he wrote that 
"the first of my recollective powers placed me in the central 
portion of the city of Nantes, on the Loire River, in France." 

Again, in the Introduction to the second volume of the 
Ornithological Biography, Audubon spoke of America as "the 
land of my birth," and as the country in which "my eyes first 
opened to the light." 

How do such statements support the theory that Audubon 


was the "lost" or mislaid Dauphin, or suggest the palace of 
Versailles, where Louis Charles was born, with forty or more 
servitors around him with assignments directed mainly to the 
care of the little prince, not to speak of his later governesses, 
tutors, or teachers? John James was not Louis Charles! 

In the biographical sketch just referred to, supposed to 
have been written about 1835, which, though edited by his 
granddaughter, is replete with palpable errors, Audubon wrote 
that "the precise period of my birth is yet an enigma to me." 
He then spoke of his father going from Santo Domingo to 
Louisiana, and there marrying a Spanish lady of beauty and 
wealth, and of having three sons born to them, "I being the 
youngest of the sons, and the only one who survived extreme 
youth. My mother, soon after my birth [implying that he 
was born in Louisiana], accompanied my father to the estate 
(sic) of Aux Cayes, on the island of Santo Domingo, and she 
was one of the victims of the ever to be lamented period of the 
negro insurrection of that island." 

The evidence now available from a variety of sources points 
more clearly than ever to the fact that the mother of Audubon 
was a French Creole, Mademoiselle Rabin, of Santo Domingo, 
where her children were all born, and that she was not married 
to Audubon's father, who stated under oath in the act of adop- 
tion that the mother of his son had died "about eight years" 
pi-ior to March 7, 1794, the date of the signing of the act — 
that is, in 1786, or one year after 1785, the year of the child 
born to Mademoiselle Rabin as recorded in the Sanson bill. 
Later items in the latter show that this child's mother was in 
declining health, and tend to confirm Audubon's statement, 
quoted above, that his mother had died shortly after his birth. 

In various extracts from Audubon's European journal, 
written for the benefit of his wife, but not for the public, at 
various times from 1826 to 1828, chiefly at Edinburgh and 
Paris, he records a visit from the Countess of Selkirk, refers 
to his high birth, to walking the streets of Paris like a common 
man when he "should command all." He also refers to his 


hated uncle, "Audubon of La Rochelle," and speaks of the oath 
under which he was bound not to reveal his identity. The name 
of the Dauphin or Louis XVII does not appear in any of these 
excerpts, but the reference seems to be clear. 

It should be remembered that when the Dauphin and his 
mother were separated in the Temple prison on July 3, 1793, 
the son was in his ninth year, and that the boy was nearly eight 
years old when his father was executed, so that the young 
prince had the memory of several years of both his parents, 
to whom, according to the testimony of all who had known them, 
he was devotedly attached. 

Mr. Arthur speaks of Miss Harriet Bachman Audubon, 
daughter of John Woodhouse Audubon by his first wife, telling 
how she had read in one of her grandfather's journals this 
significant statement : he made reference to "my father, meaning 
Jean Audubon, — and in the next sentence said 'my own father 
whom I saw shot.' He said 'shot,' because he was only eight 
years old and the word 'to guillotine' was not then invented." 
Miss Audubon was evidently promoting the idea that the nat- 
uralist's "own father" was Louis XVI and that her grandfather 
was the Dauphin ; but if there is any truth in the quotation, it 
would definitely prove that young Audubon could not have been 
the Dauphin since the execution of Louis XVI was not witnessed 
by his own son or by any other member of the royal family. 

In his Ohio and Mississippi journal, writing in 1820, Audu- 
bon spoke of himself as "a young man of seventeen sent to 
America to make money," in 1802, as he then thought. It is 
thus evident that at the age of thirty-five he looked upon 1785 
as his natal year, although he was a year short in his dating 
of that first American voyage, which actually occurred in 
1803, when he was in his eighteenth year. When writing to 
Bachman in 1832, he gave his own age as forty-seven, which 
would imply that he was born in 1785, and this would again 
agree with the date of birth of a child born to Mademoiselle 
Rabin, as recorded in the Sanson bill. In writing to Bachman 
again six years later, on April 14, 1838, he speaks of his being 


then fifty-three years old, which would also point to the same 
birth date of 1785. 

On June 4 1826, at sea, when on his way to England and 
to fame, Audubon wrote : "We are a few miles south of the 
Line for the second time in my life. — What ideas it conveys to 
me of my birth, and the expectations of my younger days." If 
this statement is true, it would explode the Audubon-Dauphin 
hypothesis, unless its proponents can explain how the boy 
prince could ever have been south of that Line before 1826. 

In a letter to his wife, written from New Orleans in 1837, 
as noted by Mr. Arthur, Audubon spoke of that town as "my 
natal city," and local newspapers of the time hailed him as a 
native of Louisiana. Moreover, Cuvier, in his report on The 
Birds of America to the Ro} r al Academy of Sciences of Paris, 
September 22, 1828, made the same statement, which in this 
case could have come only from Audubon himself. When he 
sailed from Nantes for the United States with Rozier in 1806, 
his passport, which his father had procured for him, indicated 
that he was born in New Orleans. 

To many it would seem strange that J. J. Audubon should 
have found so close a resemblance between himself and Jean 
Audubon unless his father by adoption were his "real father." 
Writing in 1820, Audubon said that "Major Croghan of Ken- 
tucky told me often that he [Jean Audubon] looked much like 
me and he was particularly well acquainted with him." In his 
"Myself" sketch he also said : "In personal appearance my 
father and I were of the same height and stature, being five 
feet, ten inches, erect and with muscles of steel. ... In temper 
we much resembled each other also." One day in October, 
1826, when Audubon returned to his rooms in Edinburgh and 
looked into a mirror, he saw, as he recorded in his journal, not 
only his own face, but "such a strong resemblance to that of 
my venerated father that I almost imagined that it was he 
that I saw ; the thoughts of my mother came to me, my sister, 
and my young days, — all was at hand, yet so far away." It 
should be added that a year and half later, at Edinburgh also, 


he wrote: "To-day, as I was shaving, I was struck by my re- 
semblance to my father, not my adopted father, but my own 

Those committed to the Dauphin theory see in Audubon's 
features a strong Bourbon likeness, but such fancied resem- 
blances never carry much weight. Rev. John Halloway Han- 
son, 8 biographer and protagonist of Eleazar Williams, was 
certain that this half-breed Indian was an aristocrat, and the 
Dauphin to boot, for he had the Bourbon features from top to 

In writing to young Spencer Fullerton Baird in 1842, 
Audubon expressed the curious, if purely fanciful, idea that 
his mother once lived on his father's "Mill Grove" farm, which 
was near Norristown in Pennsylvania. 

The foregoing record probably does not exhaust all the 
possibilities, but it is amazing enough, and partly explains why 
John Neal was so often taunting Audubon for having as many 
birthplaces as the poet Homer. A remarkable fact about these 
statements is that nearly all of them come to us at second 
hand, that is, from private letters or edited journals, the 
quotations from the Ornithological Biography being the only 
ones that were published under Audubon's own signature. 

From the account just given, it is obvious, I think, that 
Audubon was determined that the facts concerning his birth 
and parentage should not be made public, and that to achieve 
this end he resorted to enigma, as the best available smoke- 
screen. If he thought that public knowledge of those facts 
would prove a stumbling-block in his own career, and in that 
of his two sons, whom he once said he hoped might rise to 
eminence, he was indubitably right ; for strange as it may seem, 
and unjust as it assuredly is, the stigma of illegitimacy has 
long been a penalty which the public is ever ready to place on 

8 Author of The Lost Prince (New York, 1854). With this book, said 
William W. Wight, the habit began of referring to Louis XVII as "lost," 
as if he had been mislaid or hidden. "He was lost only in the sense that 
he had died." Hanson's mother was a daughter of a younger brother of 
Oliver Goldsmith, the poet. 


the head of the innocent. What strangers or what his inti- 
mates knew about those family matters was what Audubon 
was willing to tell them, and his own record shows plainly 
enough that he preferred to bear the taunts of the uncharitable 
rather than to face the reality ; but so redoubtable a handicap 
should not be allowed to detract one iota from his just fame. 


"One of the great miracles of history would have occurred," 
writes Miss Rourke, "if Audubon were the lost Dauphin, but 
this is nothing against the idea." True enough, but the same 
could be said of Eleazar Williams or any other of the numerous 
pretenders impersonating that unfortunate prince. If there 
were solid, unmistakable evidence to support the conclusion 
that Audubon was the titular king of France, I should be only 
too glad to accept it, but the presumptive evidence is all the 
other way. The theory will not bear analysis ; it is too weak 
to stand on its own feet. 

"Some of those closest to Audubon during his lifetime," says 
Miss Rourke, "believed implicitly that he was of noble birth." 
Very true, but Audubon said many things, at different times 
and to different persons, which contradict point-blank what was 
said in letters or journals intended for his wife — as that he 
was born in the New World, or in one of the French colonies ; 
that his mother died shortly after his birth; or that his first 
memories were of Nantes, and that the only mother he had ever 
known was his stepmother. In forming a judgment in the 
midst of so many contradictions, we are inevitably thrown back 
upon those family legal documents which have not been edited 
or in any way tampered with, and which were drawn up before 
the youth was grown to man's estate and obliged to fight his 
way in a hostile world. In striving to reach the truth in such 
a case, all domestic partiality must of necessity be laid aside. 

"A long period exists," says Miss Rourke, "between the 
date given for Fougere's birth [April 26, 1785] and the date 


of his adoption [March 7, 1794] — nearly nine years — a gap 
which has not been filled in. Where was the boy during this 
time?" The evidence is fairly conclusive that Jean Audubon 
took his son to France late in 1789, so that this "gap" is 
reduced to about five years ; and it seems to me that in his 
Ornithological Biography and the "Myself" sketch the sub- 
ject has filled this interval quite well enough himself. In the 
latter he spoke of "being constantly attended by two black 
servants, who had followed my father from Santo Domingo to 
New Orleans and afterwards to Nantes." Mrs. Tyler thinks 
that "it can be only mental inertia which has allowed hundreds 
of intelligent people to read this sentence, and not press the 
inquiry why the illegitimate son of a common, seafaring captain 
of Nantes should have been constantly attended by one or two 
black servants." But what shall be said of the mental condition 
of the people who have first read the opening sentence of the 
very same paragraph about Audubon's first recollective powers 
placing him in the central part of the city of Nantes? If that 
statement were literally true, it would at once sterilize the idea 
of Audubon being the lost Dauphin. In any case, one would 
think that a household with an active boy rising five years (in 
1790) and a girl rising three could keep any two black servants 
on their toes for a good long time. Audubon did not mention 
his little sister Rosa, but there is no reason to think that he 
monopolized all the attention of servants. 

In 1789 Jean Audubon jumped from the frying-pan of 
Santo Domingo into the revolutionary fires which were then 
sweeping France. At Nantes he became an ardent revolution- 
ist when his city was entering the most terrible years of its 
history. It withstood a determined siege by the loyalists of 
La Vendee under Charette, and a reign of terror under Jean 
Baptiste Carrier, whose recall on February 14, 1794, just 
twenty-one days before the act of adoption was signed, had 
given Jean Audubon and his fellow-citizens the first respite they 
had enjoyed in years. 

At Nantes, Captain Audubon had occupied a number of 


different houses during a long intermittent residence; and he 
continued to live there with his family until his retirement from 
the navy for disability on January 1, 1801, when he settled in 
his country villa, "La Gerbetiere," at Coueron, on the right 
bank of the Loire nine miles down the river. 

During this earlier time, up to his sixteenth year, young 
Audubon had received little or no regular schooling, but he 
had enjoyed a good deal of desultory experience in natural 
history and drawing. Thereafter, from 1801 to 1803, when 
he first returned to America, and for a year or more in 1805 
and 1806, when he was at Coueron, aside from slight digres- 
sions, he was roaming the countryside and making a collection 
of his own drawings of the native birds. According to his own 
account of these formative years, he received plenty of good 
advice, criticism, and admonition from his father, and it was 
at Coueron that Fougere first met Dr. Charles d'Orbigny, who 
might be called his father in natural history. For my part 
I do not see the need of doubting the identity of the youth 
whose life has been briefly sketched from 1789 to 1803. If 
this was Audubon, who up to his eighteenth year had spent 
nearly five years in Santo Domingo, eleven years in Nantes, 
and parts of two years at Coueron, where does the Bourbon 
prince enter the picture? 

Miss Rourke thinks that Lieutenant Audubon did not tell 
all of his reasons for sending his son to the United States, and 
that "whatever his reasons were, they persisted, and may have 
had to do with the boy's parentage." This is unimportant, 
since what the father did not tell, the son apparently did. In 
writing to Miers Fisher in 1803 and to Francis Da Costa in 
the winter of 1804-05, Lieutenant Audubon expressly said that 
the compelling reasons for sending his son to America at that 
time were to enable him to learn English and to enter trade. 
"Remember, my dear Sir," the elder Audubon wrote, "I expect 
that if your plan [with the lead mine] succeeds, my son will 
find a place in the works, which will enable him to provide for 
himself, in order to spare me from expenses which I can with 


difficulty support." If young Audubon had been the hereditary 
king of France, Louis XVII, is it likely that Lieutenant Audu- 
bon, then retired, in poor health, impoverished, receiving a 
paltry annuity from the French Government of six hundred 
francs, would have been expected to meet all the expenses of 
sending a legal French king, though masquerading as his son, 
to America and of maintaining him there? 

There was, to be sure, another reason why the retired sailor 
and soldier wanted to get his son Fougere out of France at 
that time, though he may not have wished to write it. The 
young man was eligible for conscription. The need for "cannon 
fodder" was soon to become acute all over France, for Napoleon 
became emperor in 1804. Audubon himself told the secret at 
a much later time, when going down the Ohio River in 1820. 
On November 26 of that year he wrote: "The conscription 
determined my father on sending me to America"; and he 
added: "A young man of seventeen [eighteen], sent to America 
to make money, for such was my father's wish." 

In his journal on March 15, 1827, at Edinburgh, Audubon 
recorded a visit from the Countess of Selkirk, and thought it 
strange that she should call upon him at his George Street 
lodgings. "Did she know, I wonder," he wrote, "who I am 
positively, or does she think that it is John J. Audubon, of 
Louisiana, to whom she spoke? Curious event, this life of 
mine !" It would be reasonable to suppose that the Countess 
called on Audubon out of curiosity, since he was becoming 
something of a social lion, and she had doubtless heard of this 
genius from the backwoods of America from her nephew, Cap- 
tain Basil Hall, who was one of Audubon's confidential friends. 
Moreover, this friend was then planning to visit America and 
was getting much useful information from the naturalist. 

On October 9, 1828, when in Paris, according to Mrs. Tyler, 
Audubon wrote in his journal (and afterwards copied the entry 


in a letter to his wife) : "How often I thought that I might 
once more see Audubon of La Rochelle without being known 
by him, and try to discover if my father was still in his rec- 
ollection, if he had entirely forgotten Selkirk's Settlements." 
In my version of this entry there is no s at the end of the last 
word, but the vagueness which the plural number imparts really 
makes no difference in our interpretation of the Dauphin ques- 
tion. "And if," continued Audubon, ". . . if I say a few words 
more, I must put an end to my existence, having forfeited my 
word of honor and my oath." 

This Lord Selkirk, whose interests in Canada were para- 
mount but who never held any public office there higher than 
justice of the peace, had been much in the public eye in England 
in the early part of the nineteenth century. At the time of the 
Countess' call she had been a widow seven years, but it is pos- 
sible that Audubon had heard all about the Earl's disastrous 
colonial expriments through her nephew. Whether this is true 
or not, this Selkirk reference is the slender thread on which 
Mrs. Tyler builds an amazing superstructure. "It would ap- 
pear," she says, "that John James Audubon was, at some time, 
a member of Selkirk's Settlements in Canada." She writes : 
"The long suspense is over ! At last we know the reason for 
Admiral Jean Audubon's abnormal solicitude, which took the 
form of the constant attendance of those black servants, who 
guarded John James Audubon, the supposedly illegitimate son 
of the rough sea captain of Nantes ! That little nine-year-old 
boy, adopted by Jean Audubon on March 7, 1794, was a per- 
sonage whose real identity might presumably be recognized by 
the wife of the Earl of Selkirk. The wife of the Earl of Selkirk 
had apparently known him personally when he was a settler in 
Selkirk's Settlements. It is not very likely that the Earl's wife 
habitually met the rough colonists sent out to the wilds of 
North America, unless by chance one of those colonists was not 
a real settler, but was a personage emigrating under this guise 
in order to hide his identity, and to seek the protection of the 
Earl's remote colony. If the Earl of Selkirk were hiding a 


person of importance in his Settlements in the Hudson Bay 
country, very probably the Earl's wife met that person before 
embarkation ; or perhaps she gave him hospitality in her home, 
as was common in those days when England was the first des- 
tination of terror stricken French refugees." 

"And that other Audubon of La Rochelle, who apparently 
had been with him in Selkirk's Settlements, was he the person 
entrusted to convey and guard that little boy of eleven years, 
on the long perilous journey to Hudson Bay?" Mrs. Tyler 
seems to have confused Hudson Bay with the Hudson's Bay 
Company, which drew its furs from a vast region, but none of 
Selkirk's Settlements was anywhere near Hudson Bay. 

Audubon's claim that he was bound under a solemn oath to 
his father not to reveal his own identity Mrs. Tyler thinks 
explains many things about the early history of Audubon the 
naturalist. "Does it not explain why the wily old sea captain, 
Jean Audubon, adopted two children on the same day, to give 
a semblance of paternity to both acts? And does it not suggest 
why he registered the name of the mother of the girl, and 
omitted to register the name of the mother of the boy, whose 
recorded age almost paralleled that of Marie Antoinette's son, 
who had vanished from the Temple just forty-odd days before 
the date of this adoption?" 

It is my opinion that Jean Audubon, who was only forty- 
nine years old when this act of adoption was drawn, and who 
was but just then getting a breathing-spell after perilous times, 
knew what he was talking about, that he was no perjurer, but 
was perfectly honest in every statement sworn to and witnessed 
in this act. That he was a few days out in his memory of birth 
dates is not important. There is no evidence that he failed to 
mention the name of the mother of his son in order to conceal 
the woman's name. The surest way of doing this would have 
been to use a fictitious one. Judge Fougere, as quoted by Mr. 
Arthur, offers another explanation : since Mademoiselle Rabin 
was dead and could not enter a legal objection, it was not 
necessary to give her name ; "but, on the contrary, Mile. Cath- 


arine Bouffard, who had succeeded her in the Audubon home, 
was still alive, and when her daughter, Rosa, was adopted, 
Captain Audubon was forced to record her name because, as 
she was still in France, she could have entered a legal objec- 

Mrs. Tyler reproduces the title of a book on the Red River 
Colony which she says "serves to prove that Selkirk's Settle- 
ments were preeminently suited for the purpose of hiding the 
little King of France far from a world on fire with his pur- 
suit. . . . And the by-products of this place of concealment 
were to exceed in importance to the world even his physical 
survival. The germinating genius of this growing boy which 
straight through life seemed to flower under adversity, was born 
of this forest life and intimacy with primeval nature. 

"It would have been natural for Admiral Audubon to turn 
his eyes to those North American outbounds of civilization, 
which he had so extensively traversed, were he casting about 
to find asylum for his adopted son after Charette's death. . . . 
Something had to be done to get that little boy out of danger, 
and so completely beyond the reach of Carrier's followers that 
pursuit would be absolutely impossible. Nor would distance 
alone provide sufficient protection. Secrecy must again be in- 
voked, and masquerading under some impenetrable guise, Sel- 
kirk's Settlements provided both requirements." 

Mrs. Tyler even charts the course which she thinks Louis 
XVII, masquerading as John James Audubon, had taken in 
travelling from Nantes to the wilds of Canada ; to England, 
"the first destination of so many French refugees, . . . Saint- 
Domingue, Admiral Audubon's former home; and probably 
from there to New Orleans, and up the Mississippi to the 
Settlements. . . . 

"The name La Foret, which Audubon assumed, and which 
has never had any explanation, probably dates from this period. 
It may be the name under which John James Audubon was 
known as a Selkirk "Settlements colonist. . . . This name was 
probably dear to her [Mrs. Audubon], because she was the only 


person in Audubon's life, who knew about his Canadian sojourn. 

"This thesis, if true, provides the explanation of so many 
inexplicable elements in the life of John James Audubon, that 
it is with a distinct sense of relief that I offer it as a working 
hypothesis, in the light of these letters. For, as I have said, 
no amount of wandering around the countryside of Coueron 
could have fitted this adolescent boy, John James Audubon, for 
his future life, and transformed him into one of the most power- 
ful, resourceful woodsmen the new world possessed. . . . 

"And yet when John James Audubon came to the United 
States in 1803, when he was barely eighteen years of age, he 
could traverse the continent alone like an Indian, find his way 
through trackless forests, swim swollen rivers, shoot with the 
marksmanship of the wilderness, and he could survive with his 
naked fists in the primeval forest of North America. His con- 
tacts with the Indians had the sure touch of easy familiarity; 
his knowledge of wild life knew no bounds. . . . 

"Where had John James Audubon acquired this forest train- 
ing? It is my belief that John James Audubon acquired all 
his forest training in the Selkirk's Settlements, somewhere be- 
tween 1796 and 1800." 

What an extraordinary picture we have here of the boy 
"king," whose sister once said that if he had actually escaped 
from the Temple prison, he could not have lived long on account 
of his weakened condition : hidden for a time in the heart of 
Nantes, under the roof of one who was, or who had recently 
been, an ardent revolutionist; adopted by this very man, Jean 
Audubon, in place of his own son — about whose fate neither of 
the writers quoted seems to have thought it necessary to in- 
quire ; taken secretly to England, where Mrs. Thomas Douglas, 
later to become the Countess of Selkirk, opens her heart and 
home to him. Then a mysterious uncle takes him to Santo 
Domingo, thence to New Orleans, and then up "Old Man River" 
to that vague destination called "Selkirk's Settlements," where 
the boy "king" first learned his Indian lore and woodcraft. 

It is sad to relate that this ingenious picture bears no re- 


semblance whatsoever to reality. As a "working hypothesis" 
it fails to work. There is not an essential line or word of 
truth in it, not one ! It cannot be true in any particular, since 
in the period in question, of 1796 to 1800, which Mrs. Tyler 
is endeavoring to fill, there were no Selkirk's Settlements any- 
where in existence, and none indeed before 1803, when young 
Audubon, at eighteen, was leaving France and heading for his 
father's "Mill Grove" farm in Pennsylvania. 

The Scottish nobleman Thomas Douglas (1771-1820), the 
fifth Earl of Selkirk and the seventh and youngest son of the 
fourth Earl, did not come into his title and fortune until the 
death of his father in 1799. He was a patriot who gave his 
fortune and himself for the development of the British Empire 
by laudable means, his great aim being to turn the flow of 
Scottish colonists from the Carolinas and New England to 
Canada. He sponsored three settlements in North America, 
the first in 1803 on Prince Edward Island, which was eventu- 
ally fairly successful. The second, named "Baldoon" after a 
village on his ancestral acres, was situated in the western 
peninsula of upper Canada, between Lakes Huron and Erie, 
and never became more than a straggling pioneer village before 
it was finally plundered by Americans in the War of 1812. 

The Selkirk Settlement of the Red River, in the Winnipeg 
region of what is now Manitoba, and over five hundred miles 
from Hudson Bay, was undoubtedly the one to which Audubon 
referred, and about it every reader of newspapers in England 
must have heard in the second decade of the last century. Its 
notoriety was due to its vast land area, the money at stake, 
and to the numbers of people involved. The legal battles 
fought over it in the courts, which lasted for upwards of ten 
years, with their strain and worry, caused, as many believed, 
the premature death of Lord Selkirk at forty-nine. The Earl 
died on April 8, 1820, at Pau, France, whither he had gone in 
the vain hope of recovering his health, and was buried in the 
Protestant cemetery there. 

The directors of the Hudson's Bay Company had granted 


Selkirk an area of 116,000 square miles, comprising parts of 
what are now Manitoba, North Dakota, and Minnesota, and 
regarded as about the most fertile district on the whole North 
American continent. By the deed of January 12, 1811, Sel- 
kirk became the owner, in fee simple, of a tract five times the 
size of his native Scotland, stretching from Lake Winnipeg and 
the Winnipeg River on the east almost to the source of the 
Assiniboine on the west. This brought Selkirk and the Hud- 
son's Bay Company in deadly conflict with the North-West 
Fur Company, whose directors were more interested in their 
fat dividends than in philanthropy. They gave Lord Selkirk 
no peace in the courts until, on the verge of financial ruin, his 
health broke. In 1821, the year after Lord Selkirk's death, 
the rival companies combined, and fifteen years later they made 
a financial settlement with the Selkirk heirs. The purchase of 
the territorial rights of this Company by the Dominion of 
Canada in 1869 led to Riel's rebellion, which was suppressed 
by British regulars under Colonel (later Lord) Wolseley. The 
Red River district entered the Canadian Confederation in 1870 
as the Province of Manitoba. Lord Selkirk seems to have lived 
fifty years ahead of his time. Sir Walter Scott is reported to 
have said of him: "I never knew in my life a man of more 
generous and disinterested disposition." A town and a county 
of Manitoba bear his name. 9 

Why did Audubon refer to Lord Selkirk in 1828, and why 
was he curious to know if "Audubon of La Rochelle" remem- 
bered Selkirk's Settlement? For no better reason, apparently, 
than why he should wish to know if this same Audubon of La 
Rochelle, whom we have supposed was the naturalist's uncle, 
remembered his own brother, Jean, with whom we are told that 
he had quarrelled. 

A recent reviewer of Mrs. Tyler's book speaks of "Lady 
Selkirk, wife of Alexander Selkirk, who tried to establish a set- 

9 For facts concerning Lord Selkirk's life I am mainly indebted to 
Chester Martin, Lord Selkirk's Work in Canada, Oxford Historical and 
Literary Studies, Vol. VI (Oxford, 1916). 


tlement in the Hudson Bay country at the end of the eighteenth 
century." Verily, "man walketh in a vain shadow, and dis- 
quieteth himself in vain." The noble lord Thomas Douglas, 
who gave his all to his country, in after years is confounded 
with that notorious pirate Alexander Selkirk, who was bucca- 
neering in the South Seas in the seventeenth century and, after 
having reformed, as we may hope, became the prototype of 
Robinson Crusoe ! 

Lord Selkirk's active' colonial work lasted seventeen years, 
1803-1820, during which time Audubon, with the exception of 
parts of two years (1805-1806) at Coueron, was in the United 
States, engaged, when not hunting birds, in various business 
enterprises. On July 26, 1817, Audubon executed a power of 
attorney in favor of his brother-in-law, Gabriel Loyen du 
Puigaudeau, a little more than a year after his father had 
drawn up his last will, and but little over six months before 
his death. This will was at once contested by a number of 
nieces, in the courts of Nantes, on the ground that his ille- 
gitimate children, J. J. Audubon and Rosa du Puigaudeau, 
could not inherit Jean Audubon's property under existing 
French law. Nothing was said about the Dauphin or the per- 
sonal identity of the son. When this litigation became known, 
Audubon seems to have broken off all relations with his father's 
family at Coueron, and in June, 1820, after the lawsuit had 
been settled by compromise, we find the brother-in-law writing 
him an appealing letter, saying that no word had come from 
him in two years and that Madame Audubon "does not cease 
to speak of you." Audubon did not ignore this appeal, but, 
as recorded in his journal on January 10, 1821, at New Or- 
leans, he wrote letters to his brother-in-law and to his foster 
mother, at Coueron, a long neglected duty, as he acknowledged. 

In his European journal Audubon spoke of "my mother, 
the only one I can truly remember; and no one ever had a 
better, nor a more loving one. Let no one speak of her as my 
stepmother. I was ever to her a son of her own flesh and blood, 
and she was to me a true mother." If such apparently spon- 


taneous statements are taken to mean what they say, they 
would be fatal to the theory that Audubon was a son of Marie 
Antoinette. In spite of such protestations, on the other hand, 
on August 6, 1826, Audubon writes in his journal of plans for 
going to "Nantes to see my venerable stepmother," who had 
died on October 18, 1821 ; and again in 1828 he spoke of this 
estimable woman as if she were then alive, although she had 
been dead seven years. This seems to show conclusively that 
Audubon had been out of touch with his father's family for a 
long time, although one must think that he had been notified 
of his stepmother's death since he was a beneficiary under 
her will. 


For some time I have been in correspondence with Stephane 
Antoine Fougere, at one time mayor and now judge in the 
civil courts of Les Cayes, which has a present population of 
twenty thousand people and is one of the most important sea- 
ports of the Republic of Haiti. By perpetuation of a carto- 
graphical blunder this city is sometimes designated "Aux 
Cayes," which means "At the Keys" or "Cays," and is appro- 
priately placed at the head of a letter or other document writ- 
ten at Les Cayes. 

In a recent letter Dr. Donald F. Rafferty, now of Pass 
Christian, Mississippi, writes: "At the beginning of the World 
War I was ordered to Haiti, and stationed at Les Cayes, in 
charge of a French hospital. A friend sent me your book on 
Audubon . . . and after reading it ... I loaned the book to 
Mr. Uriah Cardozo, who returned it to me with the comment 
that the author had not mentioned the fact that Audubon was 
actually born aboard a schooner in the roadstead of Les Cayes. 
Apparently the story had some foundation in fact as it was 
common knowledge among the intelligentsia of Les Cayes." If 
Audubon were actually born "on the sea," the fact might throw 
some light on his statement that he "belonged to every country." 

The following information relating to Mademoiselle Rabin, 


Audubon's mother; to her parents, in whom were united the 
Rabin and Fougere families; and to Belony Fougere, the re- 
puted brother of Jean Jacques Fougere Audubon, I give on the 
authority of Judge Fougere, who considers himself a great- 
grandnephew of Audubon in direct descent from Belony Fou- 
gere. His knowledge of his family history comes from his 
grandfather, Oxylus Fougere, who died at Les Cayes in 1908, 
at the age of eighty-five, and who had often spoken of his 
famous uncle who had lived in the United States, referring, of 
course, to J. J. F. Audubon. If the naturalist was correct in 
speaking of having had two (or three) older brothers, he was 
mistaken in thinking that all of them had been "killed in the 
wars," for Belony survived, and his descendants are living at 
Les Cayes to-day. 

Audubon's mother, according to this account, came from 
two well-known land-owning families, the Rabins and the 
Fougeres, who held estates respectively in the northern and 
southern parts of what is now the Haitian Republic. These 
tracts, according to Judge Fougere, still bear these family 
names, in accord with the French custom of naming sections 
of the public domain after the principal land-owners, and are 
so marked on the maps to-day. Judge Fougere, who has kindly 
investigated this matter for me, found that in S. Rouzier's 
Geographical and Administrative Guide Book of Haiti the 
Rabin division in the north is situated in the fourth rural 
section of the Commune of Port-de-Paix, and the Fougere divi- 
sion in the district of Miragoane in the southern part of the 

The father of Mademoiselle Rabin is said to have objected 
so strenuously to his daughter's consorting with Captain Jean 
Audubon, a married man, that she insisted on having her chil- 
dren by him bear the patronym, not of her irate father, but 
of her mother, who was presumably more complacent. Perhaps 
Audubon's early dislike of the Rabin name may be traced to 
this opposition expressed by his mother, but this is purely 


Mr. Arthur, in his detailed biography, has reversed the 
names of the parents of Audubon's mother, giving Fougere as 
the father's name. Since both of us have derived our informa- 
tion from the same source, I have recently appealed to Judge 
Fougere to settle this question if possible, and he has written 
me under date of May 22, 1937, as follows: "If I have written 
to Mr. Arthur that Mile. Rabin was probably Rabin by her 
mother, and Fougere by her father, it may have been due to 
a lapsus calami, . . . nevertheless this false belief has been 
practised by the Fougere family for a good long time. I have 
been lately positively convinced of the fact that Mile. Rabin 
was Fougere by her mother, through explanations received from 
a near relative. As to whether the Mademoiselle was Fougere 
by her mother or her father is, in my opinion, a matter of no 
real importance. What is of the utmost consequence to know 
is that the Fougere of Audubon's baptismal name came from 
one of the grandparents on his mother's side." 

Belony Fougere, Audubon's older brother and Judge Fou- 
gere's great-grandfather, according to the family records that 
I am now following, married Francine d'Obcent (or d'Opsant)- 
Dumont, who was owner of the large rural section of "Dumont" 
in the district of Les Cayes. He worked as a planter, at one 
time taught school, and also set up as a shoemaker. Belony 
had two sons, Oxylus and Tibere, and four daughters, Belo- 
mine, Telcila, Dulcinette, and Elmirene. Louis Joseph Simon, 
a son of Telcila now living at Les Cayes, was at one time 
Haitian Consul-General at New York. Belony spent his early 
life at Les Cayes, but later lived at Jeremie, where he died. 

Oxylus Fougere, nephew of Audubon and grandfather of 
Judge Fougere, to continue this account, was a physician and 
also had a pharmacy at Les Cayes. He had three sons, An- 
toine, father of Judge Fougere, Fenimore and Marc, and a 
daughter, Marie. Antoine was a pharmacist of the first class 
at the University of Paris, and a former house surgeon in that 
city with the degree of licentiate in medicine. Fenimore was a 
physician and assistant surgeon in the French army in 1870. 


Both Antoine and Fenimore were in Paris seventeen years. 
Some have thought that the name of La Foret (La Forest or 
Laforest), which Audubon assumed for a time in his early life, 
was a fanciful one ; but according to Judge Fougere, as noticed 
also by Mr. Arthur, Mademoiselle d'Obcent-Dumont, who be- 
came the wife of Belony Fougere, was descendant of a family 
bearing that name and having plantations at Jeremie. The 
La Forests living there to-day all have Negro blood. 


If Audubon had been the son of Louis XVI and Marie 
Antoinette, is it possible to believe that he would have been 
sent to Paris, probably in 1802, when the world had been "on 
fire with his pursuit," to study under Jacques Louis David, 
famous artist and Conventional regicide, who had voted to send 
his father to the guillotine, who had visited the son when a 
prisoner in the Temple, presumably with the intention of paint- 
ing or drawing his portrait, and who had actually sketched the 
pathetic figure of his brave mother when on her way to the 
scaffold ? 

This reference to Marie Antoinette suggests another critical 
scene in the life of this young queen, who had grown old while 
still in her thirties. On that desolate winter morning of Janu- 
ary 21, 1793, in Paris, in an upper room of the Templars' 
Tower, were gathered a stricken wife and mother, the Princess 
Elizabeth, familiarly known as "Aunt Babet," and the two 
royal children, Marie Therese Charlotte and Monsieur Charles, 
the Dauphin of France, in the presence only of their two 
watchdogs, the commissioners who were daily detailed from the 
Convention, and their faithful pantry boy, Turgy. In a set 
of significant questions that this last-named youth, when grown 
to manhood, sent to the spurious pretender "Charles de 
Navarre," in 1817, was this: "What took place on January 21, 
when the cannon were heard in that upper room? What did 
your aunt say at that instant, and what unusual thing was 


done for you?" No answer to these questions was ever re- 
ceived, and it is safe to say that not one of the numerous other 
claimants to having been that little boy — no more than John 
James Audubon, who at that very time, according to his own 
written statement, was under the roof of his father and devoted 
stepmother — could have met this test with any better success. 
Jean Jacques Fougere Audubon was not Louis Charles ! 

So far as anyone now knows, Turgy never answered his own 
query, but we may surmise that the mother and the aunt em- 
braced the child, and said, perhaps, the traditional thing: 
"Louis Charles, the King, your father, is dead ; long live the 
new King, his son !" Very likely they tried to explain to him 
the new position in which he and they were now placed. The 
Dauphin was then not quite eight years old, having been born 
on Easter Day, March 27, 1785. The boy Audubon was about 
a month younger. 

I have stated a number of facts and circumstances which 
weigh strongly against the idea that Jean Jacques Fougere 
Audubon was Louis Charles, the Dauphin or Louis XVII, nom- 
inal King of France, but there is another consideration, that 
of physical marks upon the body, which, though seldom men- 
tioned, is even more important and which ought definitely to 
settle the question. Those closest to the Dauphin knew of 
certain marks upon his body which, taken together, could iden- 
tify him with absolute certainty. These were (1) vaccination 
marks on both arms; (2) a scar over the left eye, and another 
on the right side of the nose; and (3) a deformed right ear, 
which had its lower lobe excessively enlarged. The first two 
were unimportant, because they could be easily produced ; 
Eleazar Williams or any other pretender might, and sometimes 
did, point to some such scars in the right places. But the 
deformed ear was another matter. That was a physical char- 
acter which could not be imitated, and there was then no plastic 
surgery in France, or anywhere else, that could either produce 
or remove such a defect without trace. This deformity was 
not generally known, and it was probably actually known to 


but very few, if any, outside the royal household, since the 
boy Dauphin, as seen in life and in his portraits, had always 
appeared with long locks, banged and hanging down over his 
ears, which they completely concealed. No doubt his fond par- 
ents were quite willing that his tresses should hide such a defect. 
It was a bodily mark which tripped many a brazen pretender 
in the eyes of the knowing. 

Did anyone ever notice or know that John James Audubon's 
right ear was deformed? Not so far as is now known, and his 
numerous portraits give no suggestion of it. If Audubon's 
right ear was normal, as he and other artists represented it to 
be, he could not have been Louis Charles, the prince. Had he 
possessed such a deformity and been bound, under oath, as he 
said, not to reveal his identity, would he have consented to 
be shorn of his "ambrosial locks" in Edinburgh on March 19, 


There is probably no parallel in history to the Dauphin 
racket, which began in France shortly after the reputed death 
of Louis Charles and lasted for the better part of a century, 
with reverberations still felt to this day. The causes that led 
to such an extraordinary succession of events do not seem to 
have been duplicated in either ancient or modern times. 

Within five years after the death of the Dauphin, as re- 
corded in the Temple's archives, seven boys all claiming to be 
Louis XVII had already come to the attention of the French 
police. Soon they kept bobbing up overnight, as Vogt says, 
like as many prairie dogs, here, there, and everywhere, and 
sometimes two were circulating in the country at the same 
time. Three who made such false claims lived at one time or 
another in the United States or Canada. Of one of these, 
Eleazar Williams, I shall speak later. The Dauphin's sister 
once remarked, when the impersonators of her lost brother had 
reached twenty-seven in number, that she believed every one 
of them to be spurious. Fifty years after the reputed death 


of Louis Charles, the number of those claiming to be, or who 
believed or imagined themselves to be, that prince had risen to 
forty, and some have estimated that the roll of false claimants 
by now has touched the seventy mark ! They were an assorted 
collection of near-lunatics, unstable persons with delusions of 
grandeur or plain monomaniacs, mendacious liars, clever 
forgers, general swindlers or adventurers, and pious hypocrites. 
What did they expect to gain by such fraudulent claims? 
Probably not a diadem or kingly crown in most cases, but 
money and gifts of various sorts from the credulous, a share, 
perhaps, of the large private fortune of the sister of the 
Dauphin, and, above all, public acclaim and notoriety. The 
shrewdest forgers or the most consistent and accomplished 
liars often did obtain some of these things, such as jewels, 
coin of the realm, and a chance to live for a time at least in 
luxury. Several wrote fictitious memoirs, and many figured in 
the law courts, when they often drew fines and prison sentences. 
Their claims were usually thrown out of court, but if they 
were banished from France, they were almost certain to turn 
up again in the same role somewhere else. 

Probably no boy in the world's history whose life, or that 
part of it about which anything is definitely known, extended 
to only ten years, two months, and two days, to follow the 
Temple record again, has had so many biographers, so many 
impersonators, or has been pronounced dead and buried so 
many times and in so many different places. Under such cir- 
cumstances it is not surprising that the bibliography of this 
unfortunate prince has extended to extraordinary propor- 
tions. 10 Over a hundred years after the reported death of the 
Dauphin, a monthly publication, Revue historique de la Ques- 
tion Louis XVII, was started in Paris in 1905, but seems to 
have run out of material in the course of five or six years. 11 

10 See William W. Wight, who in his Louis XVII: A Bibliography 
(Boston, 1915) lists with annotations 478 titles, and these limited solely to 
material in his private library. 

"According to Wight this began as a "monthly" in 1905, with but 
six issues, and these gradually diminished until there was but one issue 
in 1910. 


Its editor began his address to prospective readers with a 
quotation from Renan. "I fear," said Renan, "that the work 
of the twentieth century will but consist of retrieving from 
the waste-basket a multitude of excellent ideas which the nine- 
teenth century had heedlessly thrown away. The survival of 
Louis XVII, after leaving the prison of the Temple, is one of 
these ideas." This idea, which seemed so excellent to Renan, 
when put to the test, has proved to be sterile of practical 
results. This journal appears to have been intended to con- 
tinue the work of an earlier publication, Bulletin de la Societe 
d'Etudes sur la Question Louis XVII, which, according to 
Wight, was discontinued, after some change in name, in May, 

There was a shrewd adventurer who suddenly appeared in 
France in 1830, coming apparently from nowhere and passing 
under the German name of Karl Wilhelm Naundorff, in recent 
times identified, though not with complete certainty, as Carl 
Benjamin Werg. After a long and checkered career he was 
thrown out of France and went to England, where he invented 
a bomb which was operated by clockwork. Failing to interest 
the English in his invention, he started for Holland in 1845 
with a passport bearing the name of "Charles Louis de Bour- 
bon." As he was detained at Rotterdam, the question of ad- 
mitting him soon became one of international diplomacy 
between France and Holland. The Dutch appear to have 
wanted his bomb, but as they had little liking for Charles X, 
the French King, the matter dragged over five months and 
ended in compromise. The French were willing to have the 
name "Charles Louis" appear in the document (the Dauphin's 
name having been Louis Charles), and for all they cared the 
bomb might be called the "Bourbon bomb," but they would not 
go a step farther. This was held, but on insufficient grounds, 
as a tacit admission that the Naundorff family was entitled 
to use the Bourbon name. The agreement was signed on June 
20, 1845, and Naundorff, who had gone to Delft, was dead of 
typhoid fever less than two months later. 


In 1851 the Naundorff family tried to get from the French 
Government an acknowledgment of their right to the use of the 
Bourbon name, but without success ; they appealed against this 
verdict in 1874, but lost again. Finally, in 1911, the Naundorff 
descendants made a third attempt at having their claim of 
being scions and heirs of Louis XVI acknowledged in France, 
but were again denied, and there the matter now stands. 
Naundorff had neither the physiognomy nor the physical 
marks of the Dauphin, but many believed that he was rather 
better than the average run of pretenders. Minnegerode, 
whom I have followed in this statement of the Naundorff case, 12 
is undoubtedly right in saying that the admission wrung from 
France by the Dutch in 1845 was one which no French court 
would for a moment have allowed. Nevertheless, Naundorff 
was buried with the honors of royalty at Delft, and his monu- 
ment there bears this inscription : "Louis XVII, roi de France 
et de Navarre (Charles Louis due de Normandie)." Only 
recently (July, 1937) the death was announced of one of 
Naundorff's descendants, most of whom had clung to the fiction 
of their Bourbon inheritance. 

A much more difficult subject to understand than the 
Hervagaults, the Richemonts, or the Naundorffs is the psy- 
chology of an American pretender to royalty, Eleazar Williams, 
one-time missionary to the Indians. It is a pity that Gamaliel 
Bradford never psychographed him. He had no criminal 
record, but was a teacher among the Indians for many years, 
and Bishop Hobart, of New York, ordained him to the ministry 
of the Protestant Episcopal Church and baptised his Indian 
wife, giving her the name of Mary Hobart. Williams trans- 
lated the Book of Common Prayer and numerous hymns into 
the Iroquois language, and at Green Bay, Wisconsin, started a 
school for half-breed Indian children. This was maintained 
until 1823, when he married one of his pupils. In 1839 Wil- 
liams is said to have confided to a Buffalo editor that he was 

12 See Meade Minnigerode, The Son of Marie Antoinette: the Mystery 
of the Temple Tower (New York, 1934). 


the real Dauphin of France, and ten years later an article, 
supposedly written or inspired by Williams himself, appeared 
in the United States Democratic Review, in which his definite 
claim to royalty was made public. Meanwhile Williams re- 
peated his story to anyone who would listen, but the widespread 
notoriety after which he had evidently been striving came with 
the publication in Putnam's Monthly Magazine for February, 
1853, of an article on "Have We a Bourbon among Us?" by 
the Rev. John Halloway Hanson. Hanson corresponded with 
Williams, visited him, and became such an enthusiastic sup- 
porter of his cause that he wrote his biography, in a volume 
of nearly five hundred pages which was published in 1855. Han- 
son was an idealist, without a particle of critical judgment, 
and, believing in the unimpeachable integrity of his hero, he 
accepted without question all of his yarns however amazing or 
impossible. I can relate but one of these stories, which came 
out in a conversation with Hanson, who said in effect : "Before 
you left the Temple, at the age of ten, you must have stored 
up in your mind many memory pictures of extraordinary events, 
some of which you will be able to recall. Now, I wish you 
would describe some of them." "A most remarkable fact," 
replied the self-styled Dauphin, "is that up to the age of 
thirteen or fourteen my mind was like a blank page: nothing 
was written on it. Consciousness seemed to be imperfect or 
entirely lacking, and at that early period I was practically an 
idiot. Then, this strange thing happened : one summer's day, 
when I was bathing with a number of Indian boys, my friends, 
in the waters of Lake George, in my foolish way I climbed a 
high rock over the water and dived. The shock rendered me 
unconscious, but my boy friends dragged me out, and when I 
was gradually restored to consciousness I was a changed per- 
son. My mind was restored to me, and the events, which had 
happened in my earlier years in Paris, came back. Pictures 
of soldiers and great personages were there, and there was a 
hard, cruel face, which I seemed to recognize with a start, when 
I suddenly came upon it in a steamboat or upon entering a 


train. I think that what terrified me must have been a 
resemblance to my evil guardian of an early day, Simon the 
cobbler !" Intelligent people probably knew as well then as they 
do now that any sharp blow upon the head is not conducive 
to an improvement in mentality. The Reverend Mr. Hanson 
should have remembered the Old Testament proverb : "Though 
thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a 
pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him." 

Williams told Hanson that the Prince de Joinville, son of 
Louis Philippe, when in this country in 1841, came to Green 
Bay and tried to induce him to sign an abdication of his rights 
to the French throne. When this was denounced in France as 
a pure fabrication, Williams said to Hanson: "I do not trouble 
myself much about the matter. . . . My story is on the wings 
of heaven, and will work its way without me. . . . God in His 
providence must have some mysterious ends to answer, or He 
would never have brought me so low from such a height. ... I 
do not want a crown. I am convinced of my regal descent ; 
so are my family. The idea of royalty is in our minds, and we 
will not relinquish it. You have been talking to a king to- 
night." They were then on a steamboat approaching Bur- 
lington, Vermont. 

In concluding his article on "The Bourbon Question," the 
sequel to the one to which I have just referred, Hanson said: 
"To those who have charitably attributed to me the origi- 
nation of a moon hoax 1S to sell a magazine, or the credulity of 
adopting the baseless tale of a monomaniac, I reply . . . that 
I am content to leave the case to speak for itself, quite satisfied 
with the approbation of those, neither few, nor stupid, nor 
credulous, who entertain with me the strongest conviction of 
the high probability that beneath the romance of incidence 
there is here the rocky substratum of indestructible fact." 

13 Referring to the story in The Sun (New York) of August 25, 1835, 
sometimes called the greatest scientific fraud ever perpetrated, which pur- 
ported to have been written by Sir John Herschel, but is now believed 
to have been the work of a clever reporter, Richard Adams Locke. 


Eleazar Williams said that his story would work its way 
without him. It has, but it has taken a different course from 
that which he would have chosen, especially since the historians 
at the University of Wisconsin have made it their business to 
investigate his life history. It has been definitely established 
that Eleazar Williams was a half-breed Indian, son of Thomas 
Williams and Mary Ann Kenewatsenri. Thomas was a grand- 
son of Eunice Williams, who was a daughter of John Williams, 
minister at Deerfield, Massachusetts. She was captured in 1784 
in a French and Indian raid, was married to an Indian chief 
of Caughnawaga, and her descendants all took the Williams 
name. In 1824 Eleazar gave Sault S. Louis (Caughnawaga, 
Canada) as his birthplace, but he publicly maintained the 
fiction of being the French Dauphin up to his death in 1858. 
Eleazar Williams stands in a class by himself among the 
better-known pretenders to royalty in relation to Louis Charles. 
Why did this minister and missionary worker choose to lead a 
life of duplicity? His dishonesty brought him no monetary 
rewards. His greatest weakness seems to have been an in- 
ordinate vanity. His bold claims and those of his credulous 
friends, who could not have known him any too well, made him 
a marked man, and wherever he went interest in him was 
aroused. If he preached in a country church, that was an event 
to be remembered. In a recently published work on Old His- 
toric Churches of America there is pictured a church at Long- 
meadow, Massachusetts, "with which," it was stated, "is asso- 
ciated the romantic story of Eleazar Williams, believed by many 
to have been Louis XVII of France." 

What shall be said of the conjectures of Mrs. Tyler on this 
crude Williams hoax? "There is a persistent rumor in 
Canada," says Mrs. Tyler, "that the Dauphin lived there. 
When a legend of this kind lives through a century, it usually 
has some basis in fact, as is now seen [the basis being that 
Audubon was Louis XVII, and was secretly taken to Canada 
when eleven years old]. And this may even account for the 
story of the 'mythical Williams boy,' who was a missionary to 


the Indians, for Audubon's religious life was deeply spiritual, 
and he may have used his stay in Canada to this end ; and the 
Williams boy's mother, Mrs. Williams, is reputed to be the 
indomitable and indefatigable Lady Atkyns, who gave Marie 
Antoinette her pledge that she would never stop till she had 
saved her son, Louis 17th. It may be that Lady Atkyn's pledge 
was thus fulfilled." 

What a strange denouement ! Audubon, at the age of 
eleven, giving spiritual comfort to North American Indians, 
whom he had never seen, in "Selkirk's Settlements," which did 
not then exist, and in a country which he had never visited ! 
What, I wonder, would Lady Atkyns — Walpole born, whose 
husband had been a Norfolk baronet — have thought, after all 
her money had been thrown to the winds in a vain, if worthy, 
cause, of being reputed the mother of a half-breed American 
Indian, and a pious impostor at that? Would not the ardent 
biographer of that "Williams boy," who protested that he was 
not starting a moon hoax, be equally surprised to know how 
much moonshine there was in his whole story? 

Audubon's life was romantic enough. He does not need any 
false halo of royalty. He can stand on his own feet. 




Nothing extenuate, 
Nor set down aught in malice. . . . 

Shakespeare, Othello to his biographers. 

Time, whose tooth gnaws away everything else, is power- 
less against truth. 


What a curious, interesting book, a biographer, well ac- 
quainted with my life, could write; it is still more wonderful 
and extraordinary than that of my father. 

Audubon, in letter to his wife, 

March 12, 1828. 






Audubon's growing fame — Experience in Paris in 1828 — Cuvier's patron- 
age — Audubon's publications — His critics — His talents and accom- 
plishments — His Americanism and honesty of purpose — His foibles 
and faults — Appreciations and monuments — The Audubon Societies — 
Biographies and autobiography — Robert Buchanan and the true his- 
tory of his Life of Audubon. 

It is more than three-quarters of a century since 
Audubon's masterpiece, The Birds of America, was 
completed, and two generations have occupied the stage 
since the "American Woodsman" quietly passed away 
at his home on the Hudson River. These generations 
have seen greater changes in the development and ap- 
plication of natural science and in the spread of sci- 
entific knowledge among men than all those which pre- 
ceded them. Theories of nature come and go but the 
truth abides, and Audubon's "book of Nature," repre- 
sented by his four massive volumes of hand-engraved 
and hand-colored plates, still remains "the most mag- 
nificent monument which has yet been raised to ornithol- 
ogy," as Cuvier said of the parts which met his aston- 
ished gaze in 1828; while his graphic sketches of Ameri- 
can life and scenery and his vivid portraits of birds, 



drawn with the pen, can be read with as much pleasure 
as when the last volume of his Ornithological Biography 
left the press in 1839. This appears the more remark- 
able when we reflect that Audubon's greatest working 
period, from 1820 to 1840, belonged essentially to the 
eighteenth century, for the real transition to the nine- 
teenth century did not begin in England before 1837; 
then came the dawn of the newer day that was to wit- 
ness those momentous changes in communication and 
travel, in education, democracy and ideas, which char- 
acterize life in the modern world. 

When Audubon left London for Paris on Septem- 
ber 1, 1828, it took him four days by coach, boat and 
diligence to reach the French capital, a journey which 
in normal times is now made in less than eight hours. 
Mail then left the Continent for England on but four 
days in the week, and to post a single letter cost twenty- 
four sous. Writing at Edinburgh a little earlier (De- 
cember 21, 1826), Audubon recorded that on that day 
he had received from De Witt Clinton and Thomas 
Sully, in America, letters in answer to his own, in forty- 
two days, and added that it seemed absolutely impossi- 
ble that the distance could be covered so rapidly. This 
was indeed remarkable, since the first vessel to cross 
the Atlantic whollv under its own steam, in 1838, re- 
quired seventeen days to make the passage from New 
York to Queenstown. 

"Walking in Paris," said Audubon in 1828, "is disa- 
greeable in the extreme; the streets are paved, but with 
scarcely a sidewalk, and a large gutter filled with dirty 
black water runs through the middle of each, and peo- 
ple go about without any kind of order, in the center, 
or near the houses." The Paris of that day contained 
but one-fourth the number of its present population. 


Having reaped the fruits of the Revolution, it was 
enjoying peace under the Restoration; moreover, it 
was taking a leading part in the advancement of natu- 
ral science, of which Cuvier was the acknowledged dean. 
It was but a year before the death of blind and aged 
Lamarck, neglected and forgotten then, but destined 
after the lapse of three-quarters of a century to have a 
monument raised to his memory by contributions from 
every part of Europe and America, and to be recog- 
nized as the first great evolutionist of the modern school. 
Audubon had not seen his ancestral capital for up- 
wards of thirty years, not since as a young man he was 
sent from his father's home near Nantes to study draw- 
ing in the studio of David, at the Louvre. Though in 
the land of his fathers and speaking his native tongue, 
his visit was tinged with disappointment. At the age 
of forty-three he was engaged in an enterprise which 
stands unique in the annals of science and literature. 
But fifty plates, or ten numbers, of his incomparable 
series had been engraved, and this work had then but 
thirty subscribers. That he was bound to sink or swim 
he knew full well. On August 30 he wrote: "My 
subscribers are yet far from enough to pay my ex- 
penses, and my purse suffers severely from want of 
greater patronage." This want he had hoped to satisfy 
in France, but after an experience of eight weeks, and 
an expenditure, as he records, of forty pounds, he was 
obliged to leave Paris with only thirteen additional 
names on his list. Yet among the latter, it should be 
noticed, were those of George Cuvier, the Duke of Or- 
leans and King Charles X, while six copies had been 
ordered by the Minister of the Interior for distribution 
among the more important libraries of Paris. More- 
over, he had won the friendship and encomiums of 


Cuvier, which later proved of the greatest value. The 
savants who gathered about him at the meeting of the 
Royal Academy of Sciences, over which Cuvier pre- 
sided, exclaimed, "Beautiful! Very beautiful! What 
a work!", but "What a price!", and acknowledged that 
only in England could he find the necessary support. 
Audubon concluded that he was fortunate in having 
taken his drawings to London to be engraved, for the 
smaller cost of copper on that side of the Channel was 
an item which could not be overlooked. Little did he 
dream that commercial greed for the baser metal would 
send most of his great plates to the melting pot half 
a century later. No doubt he was right also in con- 
cluding that had he followed certain advisers in first tak- 
ing his publication to France, it would have perished 
"like a flower in October." It should be added that 
King Charles' subscription expired with his fall two 
years later, while that of Cuvier ended with his death 
in 1832. 

Audubon was one of those rare spirits whose post- 
humous fame has grown with the years. He did one 
thing in particular, that of making known to the world 
the birds of his adopted land, and did it so well that 
his name will be held in everlasting remembrance. His 
great folios are now the property of the rich or of those 
fortunate institutions which have either received them 
by gift or were enrolled among his original subscribers, 
and wherever found they are treasured as the greatest 
of show books. The sale of a perfect copy of the Birds 
at the present day is something of an event, for it com- 
mands from $3,000 to $5,000, or from three to five times 
its original cost. All of Audubon's publications have 
not only become rare but have increased greatly in price ; 
they are what dealers call a good investment, an experi- 


ence which probably no other large, illustrated, scien- 
tific or semi-scientific works have enjoyed to a like de- 

As has been said of Prince Henry the Navigator, 
though in different words, John James Audubon was 
one of those who by a simple-hearted life of talent, de- 
votion and enthusiasm have freed themselves from the 
law of death. Audubon was a man of many sides, and 
his fame is due to a rare combination of those talents 
and powers which were needed to accomplish the work 
that he finally set out to do. His personality was most 
winning, his individuality strong, and his long life, bent 
for the most part to attain definite ends, was checkered, 
adventurous and romantic beyond the common lot of 

Few men outside of public life have been praised 
more lavishly than Audubon during his active career. 
Though he had but few open enemies, those few, as if 
conscious of the fact, seemed to assail him the more 
harshly and persistently. In reading all that has been 
said about this strenuous worker both before and since 
his death, one is continually struck by the perverse or 
contrary opinions that are often expressed. He was 
not this and he was not that, but he was simply Audu- 
bon, and there has been no one else who has at all closely 
resembled him or with whom he can be profitably com- 
pared. One charges that he did not write the books 
which bear his name. Another complains that he was 
no philosopher, and was not a man of science at heart; 
that he was vain, elegant, inclined to be selfish, inconse- 
quential, and that he reverenced the great; that he shot 
birds for sport; that he was a plagiarist; that he was 
the king of nature fakirs and a charlatan; that he never 
propounded or answered a scientific question; and, 


finally, that though at times he wrote a graphic and 
charming style and showed occasional glimpses of pro- 
phetic insight, he cannot be trusted; besides, he might 
have been greatly indebted to unacknowledged aid re- 
ceived from others. 

These or similar charges were brought against 
Audubon during his lifetime, as they have been made 
against many another who has emerged quickly from 
obscurity into world-wide renown. Many attacks upon 
his character were assiduously repelled by his friends, 
though seldom noticed publicly by himself; as if con- 
scious of his own integrity, he was content to await the 
verdict of time, and time in America has not been recre- 
ant to his trust. Some of these charges it may be neces- 
sary to examine at length, if found to be justified in 
any degree, while others may be brushed aside as un- 
worthy of even passing consideration. Evidence of 
every sort is now ample, as it seems, to enable us to do 
justice to all concerned, to penetrate the veil that has 
hidden much of the real Audubon from the world, and 
to place the worker and the man in the fuller light of 

The reader who follows this history may expect to 
find certain blemishes in Audubon's character, for the 
most admirable of men have possessed faults, whether 
conscious of them or not. The lights in any picture 
would lose all value were the shadows wholly with- 
drawn. If we blinded ourselves to every fault and foi- 
ble of such a man, we might produce a sketch more 
pleasing to certain readers, but it would lack the vitality 
which truth alone can supply. The more carefully his 
character is studied, however, as Macaulay said of Addi- 
son, the more it will appear, in the language of the old 
anatomists, "sound in the noble parts, free from all 


taint of perfidy, of cowardice, of cruelty, of ingrati- 
tude, of envy." 

In this attempt to present a true and unbiased 
estimate of Audubon in relation to his time, we have 
the advantage of dealing with a well rounded and com- 
pleted life, not with a broken or truncated one. He 
impressed many of his contemporaries in both Europe 
and America with the force of his contagious enthusi- 
asm and prolific genius, and their opinions have been 
recorded with remarkable generosity. On the other 
hand, "if a life be delayed till interest and envy are at 
an end," said an excellent authority, 1 "we may hope for 
impartiality, but must expect little intelligence," because 
the minute details of daily life are commonly so vola- 
tile and evanescent as to "soon escape the memory, and 
are rarely transmitted by tradition." Such details, 
which often reveal character while they add color and 
life to the narrative, have been amply supplied, as the 
reader will find, by Audubon himself, not only in his 
journals and private letters already published but in 
the numerous documents of every sort that are now 
brought to light. 

If "the true man is to be revealed, if we are to know 
him as he was, and especially if we are to know the 
influences that molded him and so profoundly affected 
him for good or evil, we must begin at the beginning 
and follow him through his struggles, his temptations, 
his triumphs." It might be better to start "in the 
cradle," or even forty years before he was born, for, 
as modern biology teaches us, nature is stronger than 
nurture and race counts for much. Certainly this man 
can never be understood if removed from the environ- 
ment which time and circumstance gave him; he needs 

1 Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No. CO. 


the historical background, furnished in part by his con- 
temporaries, some of whom were rivals with whom he 
had often to struggle to make his way. In recounting 
this history, in many cases hitherto unwritten, we must 
recognize the proverbial difficulty of tracing human 
motives to their proper source, and endeavor to form 
no harsh judgments without ample basis in docu- 
mentary or other evidence. 

No more ardent and loyal American than John 
James Audubon ever lived. His adopted country, 
which he would fain have believed to have been that 
of his actual birth, was ever his chief passion and pride, 
and for him the only abode of sweet content. Few 
have seen more of it, of its diversified races, climates 
and coasts, its grand mountains, its noble lakes and 
rivers, its virgin forests and interminable prairies, with 
all the marvelous stores of animal and plant life which 
were first truly revealed to the pioneer woodsman, 
artist and naturalist. None has been more eager to 
hand down to posterity, ere it be too late, a true tran- 
script of its wild and untameable nature while, as he 
would say, still fresh from the Creator's own hand. 
Audubon's beneficent influence during his long en- 
forced residence abroad, as a representative of Ameri- 
can energy and capacity, can hardly be measured, while 
in his own land few were more potent in bringing the 
nation to a consciousness of its unique individuality and 

Audubon, as has been said, saw nature vividly col- 
ored by his own enthusiasm, and he never looked at 
her "through the spectacles of books." His writings, 
however unpolished or written with whatever degree 
of speed, have the peculiar quality of awakening en- 
thusiasm in the reader, who, like the youth poring over 


Robinson Crusoe, feels within him a new ardor, in this 
instance, for hunting and studying birds and for leading 
a life of adventure in the wilderness. It would be as 
unjust to judge of Audubon's rare abilities as a de- 
scriptive writer from the letters, journal jottings and 
miscellaneous extracts given in this work, as to weigh 
his accomplishments as an artist from his itinerary por- 
traits or his early sketches of animals in crayon point 
and pastel. Those cruder products of his pen and brush, 
however, as the reader will find, possess a high degree 
of interest from the light which they throw on the de- 
velopment of his character and art, as well as from 
their personal and historical associations. His best and 
only finished literary work, the Ornithological Biog- 
raphy, in five large volumes, with the revisions and 
additions which later appeared, abound in animated 
pictures of primitive nature and pioneer life in America 
as well as vivid portraits of the birds and other charac- 
teristic animals. 

A good illustration of Audubon's habit of blending 
his own experiences with his biographies of birds is 
found in the introduction to his account of the Common 
Gannet : 

On the morning of the 14th of June 1833, the white sails 
of the Ripley were spread before a propitious breeze, and 
onward she might be seen gaily wending her way towards the 
shores of Labrador. We had well explored the Magdalene 
Islands, and were anxious to visit the Great Gannet Rock, 
where, according to our pilot, the birds from which it derives 
its name bred. For several days I had observed numerous files 
proceeding northward, and marked their mode of flight while 
thus travelling. As our bark dashed through the heaving bil- 
lows, my anxiety to reach the desired spot increased. At 
length, about ten o'clock, we discerned at a distance a white 


speck, which our pilot assured us was the celebrated rock of 
our wishes. After a while I could distinctly see its top from 
the deck, and thought that it was still covered with snow sev- 
eral feet deep. As we approached it, I imagined that the at- 
mosphere around was filled with flakes, but on my turning to 
the pilot, who smiled at my simplicity, I was assured that noth- 
ing was in sight but the Gannets and their island home. I 
rubbed my eyes, took up my glass, and saw that the strange 
dimness of the air before us was caused by the innumerable 
birds, whose white bodies and black-tipped pinions produced a 
blended tint of light-grey. When we had advanced to within 
half a mile, this magnificent veil of floating Gannets was easily 
seen, now shooting upwards, as if intent on reaching the sky, 
then descending as if to join the feathered masses below, and 
again diverging toward either side and sweeping over the sur- 
face of the ocean. The Ripley now partially furled her sails, 
and lay to, when all on board were eager to scale the abrupt 
side of the mountain isle, and satisfy their curiosity. 2 

Audubon's accounts of the birds are copious, inter- 
esting and generally accurate, considering the time and 
circumstances in which they were produced. When at 
his best, his pictures were marvels of fidelity and close 
observation, and in some of his studies of mammals, like 
that of the raccoon (see p. 182), in which seemingly 
every hair is carefully rendered, we are reminded of 
the work of the old Dutch masters and of Albrecht 
Diirer; notwithstanding such attention to microscopic 
detail, there is no flatness, but the values of light and 
shade are perfectly rendered. In his historical survey 
of American ornithology, Elliott Coues was fully justi- 
fied in designating the years 1824-1853 as representing 
the "Audubonian Epoch," and the time from 1834 to its 
close as the "Audubonian Period." "The splendid 

2 Ornithological Biography (Bibl. No. 2), vol. iv, p. % 

in. -> 


genius of the man, surmounting every difficulty and dis- 
couragement of the author, had found and claimed its 
own. . . . Audubon and his work were one; he lived 
in his work, and in his work will live forever." 3 

There is no doubt that Audubon regarded an honest 
man as the quintessence of God's works, and though he 
sometimes set down statements which do not square 
with known facts, this was often the result of lax habits, 
or of saying what was uppermost in his mind without 
retrospection or analysis. When memory failed or 
when more piquancy and color were needed, he may 
have been too apt to resort to varnish, but for every- 
thing written on the spot his mind was as truth-telling 
as his pictures. In considering the good intent of the 
man, his extraordinary capacity for taking pains, and 
his vast accomplishments, criticism on this score seems 
rather captious. On the other hand, when it came to 
dealing with his own early life, that was a subject upon 
which he reserved the right to speak according to his 
judgment, and in a way which will be considered later. 

Audubon left England to settle his family finally 
in America in the summer of 1839, when he was fifty- 
four years old, and since he lived but twelve years 
longer, probably few are now living who retain more 
than a childish memory of his appearance in advanced 
age. Many Londoners will recall an odd character, an 
aged print dealer who used to sit alone, like a hoary 
spider in its web, in his little shop in Great Russel 
Street, close to the British Museum, and another of 
similar type, who may still haunt a better known land- 
mark, the old "naturalist's shop" in Oxford Street, not 
far from Tottenham Court Road and but a min- 

3 Elliot* Coues, Key to North American Birds, 4th ed., p. xxi (Boston, 


ute's walk from the spot where most of Audubon's 
Birds were engraved. Both had seen the naturalist 
walk the streets of London and had known him in busi- 
ness relations. He occasionally strolled into the old 
naturalist's shop, which has been occupied by father and 
son for nearly a century. The son, then a young clerk, 
is now (1913) the crabbed veteran who still waits on 
customers but never waits long; should you hazard a 
question before making a purchase, he will roar like 
the captain of a ship and leave you to your own devices ; 
but show him money and the change in his demeanor 
is wonderful; his hearing improves, his tone softens, 
and he may recount for you what he remembers of 
times long past, which is not much. Audubon in the 
thirties seemed to him like an aged man, an impression 
quite natural to a youth. He also remembered seeing 
Charles Waterton, Audubon's declared enemy and 
supercilious critic, William Swainson, his one-time 
friend, and William MacGillivray, his eminent assist- 
ant; that they were great rivals expressed the sum of 
his reflections. He recalled the time when Oxford 
Street was filled, as he expressed it, with horses and 
donkeys, and of course knew well the old Zoological 
Gallery, No. 79 Newman Street, in which for a time 
Robert Havell & Son conducted a shop in connection 
with their printing and engraving establishment. The 
latter, when moved by Robert Havell, Jr., to No. 77 
Oxford Street, was nearly opposite the old Pantheon, 
which still lingers, and not far from the corner of 
Wrisley Street, the present site of Messrs. Waring & 
Gillow's large store. 

We already possess several biographies of Audu- 
bon, and many of his letters of a personal or scientific 
interest and most of his extant journals, though but a 


fraction of those which originally existed, have been pub- 
lished. "America, my Country," has not forgotten him. 
Mount Audubon rises on the northerly bound of Colo- 
rado as an everlasting reminder of the last and grand- 
est of all his journeys, that to the Missouri River in 
1843. American counties and towns/ as well as parks 
and streets in American cities, bear his name. At least 
four of his beloved birds have been dedicated to him. 
In 1885, thirty-four years after his death, the New 
York Academy of Sciences began a popular movement 
through which a beautiful cross in marble was raised in 
1893 above his grave in Trinity Cemetery. 5 The "one 
hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary" 6 of the natural- 
ist's birth was celebrated in New York in 1905, and at 

4 Audubon, in Audubon County, Iowa, in Beeker County, Minnesota, 
and in Wise County, Texas, as well as Audubon, Montgomery County, 
Pennsylvania, in which his old farm, "Mill Grove," is situated. Audubon 
Avenue is the first of the subterranean passages which lead from the 
entrance of Mammoth Cave, and is noted for its swarms of bats. Audubon 
Park, New York City, between the Hudson River and Broadway and ex- 
tending from 156th, to 160th Streets, embraces a part of "Minnie's Land," 
the naturalist's old Hudson River estate, but is a realty designation and is 
now almost entirely covered with buildings (see Chapter XXXVI). 

5 The Audubon Monument Committee of the New York Academy of 
Sciences was appointed October 3, 1887, and made its final report in 1893, 
when this beautiful memorial was formally dedicated. Subscriptions from 
all parts of the United States amounted to $10,5:25.21. The monument is 
a Runic cross in white marble, ornamented with American birds and 
mammals which Audubon has depicted, and surmounts a die bearing a 
portrait of the naturalist, modeled from Cruikshank's miniature, with 
suitable inscriptions, the whole being supported on a base of granite; the 
total height is nearly 26 feet, and the weight 2 tons. It was presented 
to the Corporation of Trinity Parish by Professor Thomas Eggleston, and 
received by Rev. Dr. Morgan Dix. The cemetery has since been cut in 
two by the extension of Broadway; the monument is in the northerly section, 
close to the parish house of the Chapel of the Intercession. 

The monument at New Orleans, mentioned below, was erected under 
the auspices of the Audubon Association, at a cost of $10,000, most 
of which was secured through the efforts of Mrs. J. L. Bradford, $1,500 
having been contributed by residents of the Crescent City. The figure 
is in bronze, and stands on a high pedestal of Georgia granite. 

The beautiful bust of Audubon at the American Museum of Natural 
History is by William Couper, of Newark, N. J. 

6 As will later appear, this was in reality the 120th anniversary. 


the American Museum of Natural History an admirable 
marble bust of Audubon was unveiled on a notable occa- 
sion, December 29, 1906, when similar honors were paid 
to Louis Agassiz, Spencer Fullerton Baird, Edward 
Drinker Cope, James Dwight Dana, Benjamin Frank- 
lin, Joseph Henry, Joseph Leidy, John Torrey, and 
Alexander von Humboldt. On November 26, 1910, a 
statue of Audubon, after an admirable design by the 
veteran sculptor, Edward Virginius Valentine, of Rich- 
mond, Virginia, was unveiled in Audubon Park, New 
Orleans, where the naturalist, with pencil in hand, is 
represented in the act of transferring to paper the like- 
ness of a favorite subject. He also occupies a niche in 
the Hall of Fame at New York University. 

In recent times Audubon's name has become a house- 
hold word through the medium of the most effective 
instrument which has yet been devised for the conser- 
vation of animal life in this or any country, the National 
Association of Audubon Societies for the Protection of 
Wild Birds and Animals. This has become the coor- 
dinating center for the spread and control of a great 
national movement that received its first impulse in 
1886. 7 Launched anew ten years later, it has advanced 

7 The first Audubon Society, devoted to the interests of bird pro- 
tection, was organized by Dr. George Bird Grinnell, editor of Forest and 
Stream, in 1886, and 16,000 members were enrolled during the first year; 
Dr. Grinnell was also the fatber of the Audubonian Magazine (see 
Bibliography, No. 190), which made its first appearance in January, 1887; 
by the middle of that year the membership in the new society had in- 
creased to 38,000, but with the disappearance of the Magazine in 1889 the 
movement languished and came to a speedy end. In 1896 a fresh start 
was taken by the inauguration of State societies in Massachusetts and 
Pennsylvania, and the movement gathered greater force through the in- 
auguration in 1899 of the admirably conducted magazine, Bird-Lore, as 
its official organ. The State societies were federated in 1902, and the 
National Committee then created gave place in 1905 to the National 
Association. See Gilbert Trafton, Bird Friends, for an excellent summary 
of the work of the Audubon Societies, and the "Twelfth Annual Report of 
the National Association of Audubon SocK-Hes," Bird-Lore, vol. xviii (1916). 

S i— i 

to 5 

s s 




X — 

— c8 






































<U ' 
































with ever increasing momentum, until now it is the gov- 
erning head of twenty-nine distinct State societies, as 
well as eighty-five affiliated clubs and similar organiza- 
tions. In 1916 it counted a life membership of 356, 
with 3,024 sustaining members, and realized a total in- 
come of over $100,000. It should be added that during 
the past six years over 2,900 Junior Audubon Clubs 
have been formed in the schools, through which nearly 
600,000 children have been instructed in the principles 
of the Audubon Society. Well may it be that this ad- 
mirable organization, with its successful efforts for re- 
medial legislation in state and nation ; its initiative, with 
the aid of the National Government, in establishing 
Federal reservations or sanctuaries for the perpetuation 
of wild life ; its educational activities through the exten- 
sion of its influence to the pupils of the public schools; 
and its watch and ward over all the varied interests of 
its cause, will keep the name of Audubon greener to all 
future time than the most cherished of his works. 

Of Audubon's works the public now sees but little 
and knows even less, all without exception having been 
long out of print. His admirable plates of birds and 
mammals have been widely copied and still serve for the 
illustration of popular books, but most of his publica- 
tions were projected on too large and expensive a scale 
for general circulation, having been first sold to sub- 
scribers only and often at great cost. No complete 
reprint, revision or abridgment of his principal volumes 
has been made for half a century (see Bibliography, 
Appendix V). No complete bibliography of Audu- 
bon has ever been prepared, and none will remain com- 
pleted long, for it is hard to imagine a time when com- 
ment on his life, his drawings, and his adventures will 
altogether cease. 


In May, 1834, William MacGillivray, who was as- 
sisting him in the technical parts of the Ornithological 
Biography, suggested that Audubon write a biography 
of himself, and predicted a wide popularity for such a 
work. Audubon entertained the idea but was then too 
deeply immersed in The Birds of America to give it 
much attention; yet in 1835 he wrote out a short sketch, 
entitled Myself, addressing it in the fashion of that day 
to his two sons, and then laid it aside. Mrs. Audubon 
evidently had access to this manuscript when the life of 
her husband, to be referred to later, was in course of 
preparation, and thus it has furnished, directly or indi- 
rectly, nearly all that has been published concerning the 
naturalist's early life. This fragment, which extends 
to about thirty printed pages, was characterized by 
Audubon as a "very imperfect (but perfectly correct) 
account of my early life," and though written with an 
eye to its possible publication, which was clearly sanc- 
tioned, it was evidently never revised. The manuscript 
was long lost but eventually was "found in an old book 
which had been in a barn on Staten Island for years"; 
it was first published by the naturalist's granddaughter, 
Miss Maria R. Audubon, in 1893, and again in 1898. 
As will later appear, this account is inaccurate in many 
important particulars. 

Audubon expressed the intention of extending his 
personal history, which he promised to delineate with a 
faithfulness equal to that bestowed on the birds, but 
the task was never resumed. Yet more than most 
writers have done, he wove the incidents of his own 
career into the pages of his principal works, and this 
strong personal flavor added much to their charm. Un- 
fortunately, in giving such personal or historical details 
he is most vulnerable to a critic, who insists first upon 


accuracy, for errors of various sorts and confused and 
conflicting statements are far too common. 

Of the more formal biographies of Audubon, the 
first to appear was a slender volume entitled Audubon: 
the Naturalist of the New World, by Mrs. Horace Steb- 
bing Roscoe St. John, published in England in 1856. 8 
In the same year this work was expanded and reissued 
by the publishers who at that time had charge of the 
sale of Audubon's works in America. 9 The American 
publishers explained in their edition that inasmuch as 
"the fair authoress in preparing her interesting sketch 
of Audubon . . . appears not to have been aware of 
the publication of his second great work, the Quadru- 
peds of North America (which had not been advertised, 
we believe, in Europe) they have taken the liberty of 
giving some account of it and making numerous ex- 
tracts from its pages." 10 Perhaps the most interesting 
or valuable things in this little volume at the present 
day are the woodcut on the title page showing Audu- 
bon's house on the Hudson as it then appeared, sur- 
rounded by tall trees, and, inserted on a flyleaf, a list 
of all of Audubon's published works and the prices at 
which they could be procured in New York just prior 
to the Civil War (see Note, Vol. II, p. 204). 

8 In this year Charles Lanman, writer, and at a later time librarian of 
the Library of Congress, wrote to Victor Audubon as follows: "Are not 
you and your family willing now to let me write a book about your 
illustrious father? I feel confident that I could get up something very 
interesting and which would not only help the big work, but make money. 
I could have it brought out in handsome style, and should like to have 
well engraved a portrait and some half dozen views in Kentucky, Louisiana, 
and on the Hudson. Write me what you think about it." Lanman's letter 
is dated "Georgetown, D. C, Oct. 8, 1856"; on November 1 Victor 
Audubon replied, declining the proposal. 

9 Messrs. C. S. Francis & Company, of 554 Broadway, New York. 

10 The publishers in this instance do not appear to have been better 
informed, for the text of the Quadrupeds, from which they quote, was 
written by John Bachman, and the first volume of it was issued in London 
in 1847; see Bibliography, No. 6. 


In 1868 there appeared in England a work of com- 
bined and confused authorship, commonly referred to 
as "Buchanan's Life of Audubon/' the "sub-editor," as 
he called himself, having since become better known as 
an original, skilled and prolific writer of verse, drama, 
fiction and literary criticism. At that time Robert 
Buchanan was twenty-six years old, and had published 
five volumes of poems in rapid succession, some of which 
had been received with favor by the public. A second 
and third edition of this Life followed in 1869. Finally 
the work was resurrected and again sent to press, unre- 
vised, in 1912, when it appeared in "Everyman's 
Library," at a shilling a copy, with an introduction 
which had served as a review of the work in 1869. 

A recent biographer of Alexander Wilson speaks of 
Buchanan as "commissioned by Mrs. Audubon to write 
her husband's life," but the lady herself, as well as 
Buchanan, has told a different story. It seems that in 
about the year 1866, Mrs. Audubon prepared, "with the 
aid of a friend," an extended memoir of her husband, 
which was offered to an American publisher but with- 
out success. The "friend," at whose home Mrs. Audu- 
bon was then living, was the Rev. Charles Coffin 
Adams, 11 rector of St. Mary's Church, Manhattanville, 
now 135th, Street, New York. The Adams manuscript; 
which consisted chiefly of a transcript from the natural- 
ist's journals, then in possession of his wife, was com- 
pleted presumably in 1867. In the summer of that year 
it was placed in the hands of the London publishers, 

"Rev. Dr. Adams was rector of this parish for twenty-five years, from 
1863 to his death in February, 1888; he was the author of three volumes on 
religious subjects and various smaller tracts; from 1855 to 1863 he had 
charge of a church in Baltimore, Maryland, and while there published 
an anonymous pamphlet entitled "Slavery by a Marylander ; Its Institu- 
tion and Origin; Its Status Under the Law and Under the Gospel" 
(8 pp. 8vo. Baltimore, 1860). 


Messrs. Sampson Low, Son, & Marston, who without 
any authority turned it over to one of their hard-pressed, 
pot-boiling retainers, Robert Buchanan, poet and young 
man of genius. Buchanan boiled down the original 
manuscript, as he said, to one-fifth of its original com- 
pass, cutting out what he regarded as prolix or unnec- 
essary and connecting "the whole with some sort of a 
running narrative." 12 Mrs. Audubon was unable to 
recover her property from either publishers or editor 
or to obtain any satisfaction for its unwarranted use. 
Whatever defects the Adams memoir may have pos- 
sessed, this is much to be regretted, since, as her grand- 
daughter has said, Mrs. Audubon had at her command 
many valuable documents, the originals of which have 
since been destroyed. 

Buchanan, like Audubon, had been reared in com- 
parative luxury, "the spoiled darling of a loving 
mother." After the failure of his father in various news- 
paper enterprises about four years before this time, he 
had gone up to London with but few shillings in his 
pocket and had begun life there literally in a garret. 
The reflection that Audubon had fought a similar but 
much harder battle in that same London thirty years 
before, and won, should possibly have awakened in him 
a somewhat friendlier spirit than was then displayed. 
It must be admitted, however, that Buchanan produced 
a very readable story, although there was not a word 
in his whole book which showed any real sympathy with 

12 Buchanan said that the manuscript submitted to him was inordinately 
long and needed careful revision; he added that "while he could not fail 
to express his admiration for the affectionate spirit and intelligent sym- 
pathy with which the friendly editor discharged his task, he was bound 
to say that his literary experience was limited." After copying a passage 
from one of Audubon's journals, this editor had the unfortunate habit 
of drawing his pen through the original; in this way hundreds of pages of 
Audubon's admirable "copper-plate" were irretrievably defaced. 


Audubon's lifelong pursuits, any knowledge of orni- 
thology, or any interest in natural science. Though ex- 
pressing unbounded admiration for the naturalist, his 
foibles and faults seem to have hidden from this biog- 
rapher the true value of his distinguished services. In 
respect to a knowledge of natural history it should be 
added that Buchanan laid no claims, and of Audubon's 
accomplishments in this field comparatively little was 
said, the book, like the Adams' manuscript from which 
it was drawn, being mainly composed of extracts from 
the naturalist's private journals and "Episodes," as he 
called his descriptive papers. It was here that Audubon 
made the strongest appeal to this literary editor, who 
concluded his preface with the following words of praise : 
"Some of his reminiscences of adventure . . . seem to 
me to be quite as good, in vividness of presentment and 
careful colouring, as anything I have ever read." 

Buchanan dilated on Audubon's pride, vanity and 
self-conceit, faults which may have belonged to his youth 
but which were never mentioned by his intimate friends 
and contemporaries except under conditions which re- 
flected rather unfavorably upon themselves. Com- 
plaints on this score were spread broadcast by review- 
ers of this work, seventeen years after the naturalist's 
death and with the suddenness of a new discovery. They 
were undoubtedly based on the unconscious and allow- 
able egotisms of such personal records as Audubon 
habitually made for the members of his family when 
time and distance kept them asunder. Vanity and self- 
ishness could have formed no essential parts of a char- 
acter that merited the eulogy which follows : 

Audubon was a man of genius, with the courage of a lion 
and the simplicity of a child. One scarcely knows which to 


admire most — the mighty determination which enabled him to 
carry out his great work in the face of difficulties so huge, or 
the gentle and guileless sweetness with which he throughout 
shared his thoughts and aspirations with his wife and children. 
He was more like a child at the mother's knee, than a husband 
at the hearth — so free was the prattle, so thorough the confi- 
dence. Mrs. Audubon appears to have been a wife in every 
respect worthy of such a man ; willing to sacrifice her personal 
comfort at any moment for the furtherance of his great 
schemes ; ever ready to kiss and counsel when such were most 
needed ; never failing for a moment in her faith that Audubon 
was destined to be one of the great workers of the earth. 13 

No one will deny, however, that Buchanan was right 
in saying that in order to get a man like Audubon under- 
stood, all domestic partiality, the bane of much biogra- 
phy, must be put aside; but it is equally important to 
make such allowances as the manifold circumstances of 
time and place demand, and to be a reasoner rather than 
a fancier. This work abounds in errors, but it is not 
clear to what extent they were due to carelessness on 
Buchanan's part. 

It was certainly a mistake to attribute Buchanan's 
attitude to partiality for Alexander Wilson, who, like 
himself, was a Scotchman. It was a case of tempera- 
ment only, for gloom and poverty had embittered his 
life. As his sister-in-law and biographer 14 said of him, 
"he was doomed to much ignoble pot-boiling. . . . He 
had few friends and many enemies," and "had received 
from the world many cruel blows," while "no man 
needed kindness so much and received so little." Per- 

13 Robert Buchanan, The Life of Audubon (Bibl. No. 72), p. vi. 

14 See Harriet Jay, Robert Buchanan: Some Account of His Life, 
His Life's Work, and His Literary Friendships (London, 1903). Robert 
Williams Buchanan was born at Caverswell, Lancashire, August 18, 1841, 
and died in London, June 10, 1901. 


haps the best key to the sad history of this able writer 
was given by himself when he said: "It is my vice that 
I must love a thing wholly, or dislike it wholly." His 
wife, we are told, was much like himself, and "like a 
couple of babies they muddled through life, tasting of 
some of its joys, but oftener of its sorrows." Undoubt- 
edly Robert Buchanan was a genuine lover of truth and 
beauty; he has written numerous sketches of birds and 
outdoor scenes, but with no suggestion of nature as 
serving any other purpose than that of supplying a poet 
with bright and pleasing images. 

It was with the purpose of correcting the false im- 
pressions created by animadversions in Buchanan's Life 
that Mrs. Audubon, with the aid of her friend, James 
Grant Wilson, revised this work and published it in 
America under her name as editor, in 1869. The 
changes then made in Buchanan's text, however, were 
of a minor character and most of its errors remained 
uncorrected. The naturalist's granddaughter, Miss 
Maria R. Audubon, was inspired in part by similar feel- 
ings in preparing, with the aid of Dr. Elliott Coues, her 
larger and excellent work in two volumes, entitled 
Audubon, and His Journals, which appeared in 1898. 
To her all admirers of Audubon owe a debt of gratitude 
for giving to the world for the first time a large part 
of his extant journals, as well as many new facts bear- 
ing upon his life and character. Other briefer biogra- 
phies of Audubon which have appeared have been taken 
so completely from the preceding works, and have re- 
peated and extended their errors to such an extent, as to 
call for little or no comment either here or in the pages 
which follow. 

Through the discovery in France of new document- 
ary evidence in surprising abundance we are obliged to 


draw conclusions contrary to those which have hitherto 
been accepted, and the new light thus obtained enables 
us to form a more accurate and just judgment of Audu- 
bon the man, and of his work. 



Extraordinary career of the naturalist's father— Wounded at fourteen and 
prisoner of war for five years in England — Service in the French mer- 
chant marine and navy — Voyages to Newfoundland and Santo 
Domingo — His marriage in France — His sea fights, capture and im- 
prisonment in New York — His command at the Battle of Yorktown — 
Service in America and encounters with British privateers. 

Few names of purely Gallic origin are today better 
known in America, or touch a more sympathetic chord 
of human interest, than that of Audubon, and few, we 
might also add, are so rare. John James Audubon first 
made his family name known to all the world, and 
though he left numerous descendants, it has become well 
nigh extinct in America, and is far from common in 
France. The great Paris directory frequently contains 
no entry under this head; Nantes knows his name no 
longer, and it is rare in the marshes of La Vendee, 
where at some remote period it may have originated. 

The lists of the army of five thousand which Rocham- 
beau's fleet brought to our aid in the American War of 
Independence show but a single variant of this euphoni- 
ous patronym, in Pierre Audibon, 1 a soldier in the regi- 
ment of Touraine, who was born at Montigny in 1756; 
but in the fleet of the Count de Grasse which cooperated 
with our land-forces at the Battle of Yorktown, on 
October 19, 1781, a ship was commanded by an officer 
with whom we are more intimately concerned. This 

*For similar spelling of the name of John James Audubon, see 
Appendix I, Document No. 12. 



was Captain Jean Audubon, who was later to become 
the father of America's pioneer woodsman, ornitholo- 
gist and animal painter. 

By birth a Vendean, at the age of thirty-seven Jean 
Audubon had plowed the seas of half the world, and 
in the course of his checkered career, as sailor, soldier, 
West Indian planter and merchant, had met enough 
adventure to furnish the materials for a whole series of 
dime novels. Short of stature, with auburn hair and a 
fiery temper, he was then as stubborn and fearless an 
opponent as one could meet on the high seas, and one 
of the gamest fighting cocks of the French merchant 
marine. How much Jean Audubon's son owed to his 
French Creole mother will never be known, but to this 
self-taught, thoroughly capable, and enterprising sailor 
we can surely trace his restless activity, his versatile 
mind and mercurial temper, as well as an inherent ca- 
pacity for taking pains, which father and son possessed 
to a marked degree. 

The true story of Jean Audubon's career has never 
been told, but even at this late day it will be found an 
interesting human document; and what is more to our 
purpose, it throws into sharp outline much that has 
hitherto remained obscure in the life of his remarkable 
son. The first Audubon to leave any imprint, how- 
ever faint, upon the history of his time, this honest, 
matter-of-fact sailor, would have been the last to wish 
to appear in the garb of fiction, and we shall base our 
story solely upon the unimpeachable testimony of public 
and private records, which researches in France had 
happily brought to light before the beginning of the 
war in 1914. 2 

2 For notice of these records of Jean Audubon and his family, see the 
Preface, and for the most important documents, Appendix I. 


Jean Audubon came by his sailor's instincts and 
fighting prowess naturally, for his father, Pierre Audu- 
bon of Les Sables d'Olonne, was a seaman by trade. 
Like his son he captained his own vessel, and for years 
made long voyages between French ports in both the 
old and the new worlds. Pierre Audubon, the paternal 
grandfather of John James Audubon, and the first of 
that name of whom we have found any record, 3 lived 
at Les Sables d'Olonne, where with Marie Anne Martin, 
his wife, he reared a considerable family in the first half 
of the eighteenth century. 

Les Sables, at the time of which we speak, was a 
small fishing and trading port on the Bay of Biscay, 
fifty miles to the southwest of Nantes, but is now be- 
come a city of over twenty thousand people. Lying on 
the westerly verge of the Marais, or salt marshes and 
lakes of La Vendee, the inhabitants of the district, and 
more particularly of the Socage, or plantations, to the 
north and northeast, were noted from an early day for 
their conservatism, as shown in a firm adherence to 
ancient law and custom, as well as for their unswerving 
loyalty to the old nobility and to the clergy. Like their 
Breton neighbors on the other side of the Loire, the 
Vendeans were honest, industrious, and faithful to their 
civic obligations ; they were also independent, resource- 
ful, and knew no fear. When the neighboring city of 
Nantes planted trees of liberty and displayed the Na- 
tional colors in 1789, the Vendeans were stirred to indig- 
nation and later to arms, while the Chouans on the right 
bank of the river were quick to follow their example ; in 
short, the rebels of La Vendee raised such a storm that 

3 Pierre Audubon's service in the merchant marine of France is un- 
doubtedly recorded in the archives of the Department of Marine in 
Paris, but all researches in that direction were suddenly halted by the 


for months the very existence of the infant Republic 
was threatened. This spirit of revolt to the newer order, 
the Chouanerie, as it came to be called, was stamped 
out for the time, but a few smoldering embers always 
remained, ready to burst into flame at the slightest 
provocation; recrudescent symptoms of this tendency 
had to be suppressed even as late as 1830, when Charles 
X, the last Bourbon king, lost his crown. Pierre Audu- 
bon's family, no doubt, shared many characteristics of 
their Vendean and Breton neighbors, but as the sequel 
will show, one at least did not approve of their political 
course, for he took up arms against them, and presum- 
ably against many of his own kith and kin. 

Jean Audubon was born at Les Sables on October 
11, 1744, and was christened on the same day, his god- 
father being Claude Jean Audubon, in all probability 
an uncle after whom he was named, and his godmother, 
Catharine Martin, presumably an aunt. Twenty-one 
children, according to the naturalist, blessed the union 
of Pierre Audubon and his wife, and were reared to ma- 
turity. Whether this statement is strictly accurate, or 
what became of so large a family cannot now be ascer- 
tained. 4 

4 Jean Audubon had a brother Claude, and on February 27, 1791, he 
wrote to him, asking for 4,000 francs, which he needed for the purchase 
of a boat. It was probably this brother who lived at Bayonne, and left 
three daughters, Anne, Dominica, and Catherine Francoise, who married 
Jean Louis Lissabe, a pilot (see Vol. I, p. 263). If this inference be correct, 
and the sum referred to was demanded in payment of a debt, it may 
explain a statement of the naturalist that his father and his uncle were 
not on speaking terms. 

Another brother is said to have been an active politician at Nantes, 
La Rochelle and Paris from 1771 to 1796, when he dropped out of sight 
for a number of years. When heard of again he was living at La 
Rochelle in affluence and piety. This was ajjparently the Audubon to 
whom the naturalist referred in certain of his journals and private letters 
as one who, possessing the secret of his birth and early life, had done 
both him and his father an irreparable injury (see Vol. I, p. 270). 

A sister, Marie Rosa Audubon, was married in 1794 to Pierre de 


Pierre Audubon was engaged by the French Gov- 
ernment to transport the necessities of war to Cape 
Breton Island in 1757, when the world-wide struggle 
between France and Great Britain for supremacy in the 
New World was at hand. The French were deter- 
mined at all hazards to hold their great fortress of 
Louisburg, which had been taken by the English but 
again restored to the French not many years before. 
This was the strongest and most costly fortress on the 
American continent, as well as a great center for the 
valuable trade in salted fish. By a coincidence, or pos- 
sibly out of compliment to his wife, Pierre's ship bore 
the name of La Marianne, and when he sailed from his 
home port of Les Sables d'Olonne on April 15, 1757, 
he took with him his own son, Jean, as cabin-boy, when 
the lad was but thirteen years old. In the following 
May Great Britain threw down the gauntlet to France, 
and the terrific seven years' struggle began. The great 
fortress of Louisburg fell in the following year to the 
English fleet, and was left a heap of ruins. His father's 
ship, the Mary Ann, was involved, and young Jean 
Audubon, who thus began his fighting career at four- 
teen, was wounded in the left leg and made a prisoner. 
With many of his compatriots he was taken to England, 
landing on November 14, 1758, where he remained in 
captivity for five years ; he was released but a short time 

Vaugeon, a lawyer at Nantes; their only son, Louis Lejeune de Vaugeon, 
was living at Nantes as late as 1822, when he deeded his former home to 
Henri Boutard. (The substance of this and the preceding paragraph 
is based partly upon data furnished by Miss Maria R. Audubon.) 

Jean Audubon gave his daughter, Rosa, the name of her aunt, but 
in later life seems to have broken off all relations with his brothers. 
Upon his death his will was immediately attacked by Mme. Lejeune de 
Vaugeon, of Nantes, and by the three nieces from Bayonne (see Chapter 
XVII). The naturalist does not give the name of the aunt who, as he 
said, was killed during the Revolution at Nantes, but I have found no 
reference to any other. 


before the treaty of peace was signed at Paris, February 
10, 1763. Apart from her interests in the West Indies, 
France was stripped at this time of all her vast pos- 
sessions in America, save only the two little islands of 
Saint Pierre and Miquelon. 

Whether Pierre Audubon shared the fate of his son 
we are unable to say, for at this point he drops out 
of our records and we do not hear of him again. It 
is certain that he never made another voyage with 
Jean, who returned to his native town with his passion 
for the sea unabated, and at nineteen reentered the mer- 
chant marine as a novice. His next voyage, on the ship 
La Caille, Captain Pigeon, was to execute a govern- 
mental commission at the Island of Miquelon. Five 
golden years of his youth had been spent in captivity; 
if productive of nothing else they had given him a knowl- 
edge of the English tongue, but they had also engen- 
dered bitter hatred of the English race, a feeling which 
his son confessed to have shared in his youthful days. 5 

The period from 1766 to 1768 was occupied in four 
voyages to Newfoundland, probably in the interest of 
the codfish trade, first as sailor before the mast in Le 
Printemps, and then as lieutenant in a ship called also 
La Marianne, with alternate sailings from, and to, La 
Rochelle and Les Sables d'Olonne. On his third voyage 
to Newfoundland, which was made in 1767, when he 
was twenty-three years old, Jean Audubon ranked as 

5 This was recalled by the naturalist on March 5, 1827, when he 
wrote: "As a lad I had a great aversion to anything English or Scotch, 
and I remember when travelling with my father to Rochefort in January, 
1800, I mentioned this to him. . . . How well I remember his reply. . . . 
'Thy blood will cool in time, and thou wilt be surprised to see how gradually 
prejudices are obliterated, and friendships acquired, towards those that 
we at one time held in contempt. Thou hast not been in England; I have, 
and it is a fine country.' " (See Maria R. Audubon, Audubon and His 
Journals (Bibl. No. 86), vol. i, p. 216). 


lieutenant of his vessel, but in the summer of 1768 he 
shipped again from Les Sables as sailor before the mast 
for a short trading cruise on the coast of France; in 
this instance the vessel, called Le Propre, was captained 
by Pierre Martin, who was possibly an uncle. At this 
juncture Jean Audubon enlisted in the French navy 
(service for the State) as a common sailor, and made 
two voyages on governmental business from the port of 
Rochefort, serving altogether nearly nine months 
(1768-9). After the termination of this last engage- 
ment nothing is heard of Jean for over a year, when 
in 1770 he makes his first appearance at Nantes, the 
city that was to know him in many capacities for nearly 
half a century. There he reentered the merchant ma- 
rine, and on November 1, 1770, began a series of eight 
voyages, lasting as many years, to the island of Santo 
Domingo, the western section of which was then in pos- 
session of France. 

Since much of the mystery which hitherto has 
shrouded the early life of John James Audubon is in- 
volved in the West Indian period of his father's career, 
we shall now trace this history in considerable detail. 

The great export trade of French Santo Domingo 
in those days was in brown and white sugar, then known 
as the "Muscovado" and "clayed" sorts, which for the 
year 1789 amounted to over 141,000,000 pounds, valued 
at more than 122,000,000 francs; and in coffee, which 
in the same year totaled nearly 77,000,000 pounds, esti- 
mated to be worth nearly 52,000,000 francs. 6 While all 

8 In 1789 over 7,000,000 pounds of cotton and 758,628 pounds of 
indigo were exported from the French side of the island, while further 
products of that year, including smaller amounts of cocoa, molasses, rum, 
hides, dye-woods, and tortoise shell, swelled the grand total of exports to 
205,000,000 livres or francs. Bryan Edwards, however, whose deductions 
were based on official returns, placed the average value of all exports 
from French Santo Domingo for the years 1787, 1788, and 1789, at 


such estimates were no doubt very crude, they serve to 
illustrate the richness of the prize that attracted French- 
men by hundreds to the colony, an island that to many 
seemed a paradise in prospect, but which proved to be a 
purgatory in disguise. 

Jean Audubon's voyages were all made in the in- 
terest of this valuable trade. Since they commonly 
lasted from six months to nearly a year, they became 
doubly hazardous to a French sailor after the outbreak 
of the American Revolution, for if he escaped his 
Scylla, the inveterate pirate, he might expect to en- 
counter an equally formidable Charybdis in an Eng- 
lish privateer. Though the northwestern corner of 
Santo Domingo was the center of their forays, Jean 
never lost a ship to the buccaneers, and though some- 
times caught by the English, he never surrendered. He 
made three successive voyages from 1770 to 1772 in 
La Dauphine, commanded by Jean Pallueau, first as 
lieutenant and later as captain of the second grade, but 
on his last five voyages to the West Indies he captained 
his own ships, known as Le Marquis de Levy (1774), 

171,544,000 livres in Hispaniola currency, or £4,765,129 sterling; this would 
be equivalent to about $23,158,426, and imply a purchase value of the French 
livre or franc of about 13 14 cents in American money. 

The number of plantations of every kind in the French colony was 
estimated by Edwards in 1790, at the outbreak of the Revolution, at 
8,536; there were over 800 sugar plantations, over 3,000 coffee estates, to 
mention two such resources. If to these items we add nearly half a 
million slaves, the total valuation of the movable and fixed property of 
the French planters and merchants of this period would reach 1,557,870,000 
francs. In 1788, 98 slave ships entered the six principal ports on the 
French side, and landed 29,506 negroes; Les Cayes received 19 of these 
ships, which delivered at that port 4,590 blacks. These slaves were sold 
for 61,936,190 livres, or at the rate of 2,008.37 livres each; according to 
Edwards this was equivalent to £60 sterling, or to about $291.60 in 
American money, at the rate of 14 1 /, cents to the livre or franc. See 
particularly Francis Alexander Stanilaus, Baron de Wimpffcn, A Voyage 
to Santo Domingo in the Years 1788, 1789, and 1790, translated by J. 
Wright (London, 1817); and also Bryan Edwards, An Historical Survey of 
the French Colony in the Island of San Domingo (London, 1797). 


Les Bons Amis (1775-6), and Le Comte d'Artois 

Captain Audubon was married on August 24, 1772, 
at Paimbceuf, to Anne Moynet, 7 a widow of some prop- 
erty, who had been born at Nantes in 1735 and was thus 
nine years his senior. Her married name was Ricordel. 
She possessed several houses at Paimbceuf, and acquired 
one in 1777, which was rented to the Administration at 
the time of the Revolution (see Vol. I, p. 80) , as well as 
a dwelling at Nantes, where she lived while her roving 
sailor of a husband was in Santo Domingo or the United 
States. Madame Audubon was a woman of simple 
tastes, devoted to culture, and, as we shall see, possessed 
of a kind heart. 

When Captain Audubon left Les Cayes, Santo 
Domingo, on his last trading voyage, in the spring of 
1779, bound for Nantes with a valuable cargo, his ship, 
Le Comte d'Artois, was attacked by four British cor- 
sairs and two galleys. With the odds overwhelmingly 
against him, he fought until his crew were nearly all 
killed or disabled, and after an abortive attempt to 
blow up his vessel, tried to escape in his shallop. For 
the second time he was made a prisoner by the English, 
who in this instance took him to New York, then in the 
possession of British troops. He was landed in that 
city on May 12, 1779, and was held there as a prisoner 
of war for thirteen months. If our inference be correct, 
he finally owed his release to the efforts of the French 
Ambassador, Monsieur de la Luzerne, the same, we 
believe, who had been a Governor of Santo Domingo, 
and who in 1790 became its Minister of Marine. As 

7 As signed by herself, but variously spelled "Moinet," or "Moynette" 
in family documents of the period. On August 28, four days after their 
marriage, they drew up and signed a mutual contract regarding the 
disposition of their property in case children should be born to them. 


will be seen presently, this diplomat again exerted him- 
self in Captain Audubon's behalf. 

It is interesting to find that on this occasion Jean 
Audubon was fighting not only for his life, but for his 
property. His vessel, Le Comte d'Artois, was very 
heavily armed. Though of only 250 tons, she carried 
no less than ten cannon, four of which were mounted 
on gun carriages, and ten bronze pivot guns, which 
might imply that she was originally designed as a priva- 
teer. The ship was not destroyed when her captain was 
made prisoner, but was taken by the English to Ports- 
mouth, New Hampshire (?), and burned there before 
December 15 of the following year. 8 Before starting on 
this disastrous voyage Captain Audubon had sold the 
vessel and his interest in her cargo to the Messrs. La- 
croix, Formon de Boisclair and Jacques, with whom 
later he had extensive dealings in slaves ; but he was not 
paid, and though an indemnity seems to have come from 
the British Government, he was never able to obtain a 
satisfactory settlement of the Formon claim. 5 


8 The destruction of Le Comte d'Artois is noticed in a document 
bearing date of January 19, 1782; the name of the town only is given, 
but it is probable that it refers to the United States. 

9 For repeated reference to this unsettled claim, see his letter of 
1805 to Francis Dacosta (Chapter VIII), where the name is written 

The bill of sale of Le Comte d'Artois was drawn on February 21, 
1779, when Jean Audubon appeared "before the notaries of the king in 
the seneschal's court of Saint Louis," and was described as "resident at 
Les Cayes, opposite the Isle a Vaches." The document, which in my 
copy is incomplete, reads in part as follows: 

"The present M. Jean Audubon, captain-commander of the ship Le 
Comte d'Artois, of Nantes, armed for war and now laden with mer- 
chandise, anchored in this roadstead of Les Cayes, dispatched, and at 
the point of departure for France; armed by the Messrs. Coirond Brothers, 
merchants at the said city of Nantes, acting in his own name as one 
interested in the armament and cargo of the vessel, as well as in his 
capacity as captain; [he] acting as much also for the said furnishers of 
arms as for the others interested in the said armaments, and the mer- 
chandise, which will be hereafter mentioned, in consideration of the rights 
of each, promises to have these presents accepted and approved in due 


Jean Audubon's release from captivity in New 
York, in June, 1780, probably marks the period of his 
first intimate acquaintance with the United States. 
We know only that he did not return immediately to 
either Santo Domingo or France, but became an en- 
thusiast for the American cause, and sought the ear- 
liest opportunity to avenge his wrongs at the hands of 
the British. He did not have long to wait, for through 
the exertions of the Ambassador de la Luzerne, he was 
placed in command of the corvette Queen Charlotte. 
With her, in October, 1781, he joined the fleet of the 
Count de Grasse before Yorktown, 10 where he soon 
witnessed the surrender of Cornwallis and the humilia- 
tion of his enemies. After this turning point of the 
war Captain Audubon remained in the United States, 
and in April, 1782, commanded a merchantman called 
JL 'Annette} 1 in which he was also personally interested, 
and delivered a cargo of Virginia tobacco at the port 
of Nantes. Shortly after his return to America in the 

time; which said person, appearing in said names, in the quality afore- 
said, by these presents has sold, ceded, given up, transferred, and re- 
linquished all his legal rights in the aforesaid ship, to the business-asso- 
ciates Lacroix, Formon de Boisclair & Jacques, three merchants in partner- 
ship, living in this town, purchasers conjointly and severally, for them- 
selves and the assigns of each, to the extent of one third; To wit: the 
said ship Le Comte d'Artois, of the said port of Nantes, of about two 
hundred and fifty tons, at present anchored in this roadstead of Les 
Cayes, dispatched, and at the point of departure for France, with all its 
rigging, outfit, and dependences, which consist among other things of two 
sets of sail, complete, and newly fitted out, all the tools, and the reserve 
sets of these, with the munitions of war, consisting of ten cannon, four 
of them mounted on gun carriages, and all that goes with them. . . ." 
(Translated from the French original in possession of Monsieur Lavigne.) 

10 The fact that Captain Audubon did not accompany Rochambeau's 
fleet which assembled at Brest in April, 1780, and reached Newport in mid- 
July, may account for the omission of his name from the lists that have 
been recently published. See Les Combattants Franqois de la Guerre 
Americaine, 1778-1783 (Paris, 1903). 

"Others interested in this vessel were Messrs. David Ross & Com- 
pany, with whom Captain Audubon later had financial difficulties (see 
Chapter VIII). 


same year he was placed in command of an American 
armed vessel The Queen and sent on another mission 
to France. Near the Chaussee des Saints he was at- 
tacked by a British privateer, but after a stubborn fight 
at close quarters he sank his enemy and entered the 
port of Brest. Nothing is said of the taking of pris- 
oners on such occasions, and there were doubtless few 
survivors among the defeated crew. This command 
Jean Audubon held until peace was concluded between 
Great Britain and her former colonies in America, prob- 
ably until the close of 1783. The hostile army was dis- 
banded in the spring of that year, the treaty of peace 
was made definitive in September, and on November 
25, 1783, the last British troopers left the city of New 




Captain Audubon at Les Cayes — As planter, sugar refiner, general mer- 
chant and slave dealer, amasses a fortune — His return to France 
with his children — History of the Santo Domingo revolt — Baron de 
Wimpffen's experience — Revolution of the whites— Opposition of the 
abolitionists — Effect of the Declaration of Rights on the mulattoes — 
The General Assembly drafts a new constitution — First blood drawn 
between revolutionists and loyalists at Port-au-Prince — Oge's futile 
attempt to liberate the mulattoes — Les Cayes first touched by revolu- 
tion in 1790, four years after the death of Audubon's mother — Emanci- 
pation of the mulattoes — Resistance of the whites — General revolt of 
blacks against whites and the ruin of the colony. 

After the American struggle for liberty had been 
finally won, Captain Audubon resigned his commission 
held in the United States and returned to his home at 
Nantes, but town or country could not hold him long. 
Lured by the prospects of great wealth which Santo 
Domingo offered to the merchant of those days, and 
having learned by long experience in her ports the devi- 
ous methods by which fortunes were attained, he de- 
cided to give up the sea and embark in colonial trade. 
For six years, from 1783 to 1789, he lived almost con- 
tinuously in the West Indies, and as merchant, planter, 
and dealer in slaves amassed a large fortune. Mean- 
while his wife, who had seen little of him since their 
marriage in 1772, remained at Nantes. 

Captain Audubon traveled through the United States 
early in 1789, and again late in that year when on his 
way to France, probably in the first instance returning 



to Santo Domingo by way of the Ohio and the Mis- 
sissippi. Symptoms of unrest were already prevalent 
in the northern provinces of the island but had caused 
no serious alarm in the south. Jean Audubon's aim 
seems to have been to collect debts due him in the United 
States and to leave the capital invested there. At all 
events it was on this occasion that he purchased the farm 
of "Mill Grove," near Philadelphia, the history of which 
will be given a little later (see Chapter VII). He had 
no intention, however, of living in Pennsylvania, for he 
immediately leased this estate to its former owner and 
hurried away. 

July 14, 1789, found the elder Audubon enlisted as 
a soldier in the National Guards at Les Cayes. These 
colonial troops, which were originally militia organiza- 
tions modeled after similar bodies in France, were reor- 
ganized at this time to meet any possible emergencies. 
Affairs in the southern provinces of Santo Domingo 
had followed, up to this moment, their normal course, 
and Jean Audubon, who could have learned nothing of 
what had transpired at home, decided to entrust his 
various interests to the hands of agents and return to 
France. This was probably in late August or early 
September, 1789, as we know that he first returned to 
the United States and visited Richmond, Virginia, at 
the close of that year. 1 Strangely enough, on the twen- 
tieth day of the former month the National Assembly at 
Paris had voted the celebrated Declaration of Rights, 
which was destined to upturn the whole social system 
of Santo Domingo and to convert that island into a 
purgatory of the direst anarchy, strife, and bloodshed 
which the world had ever known, or at least remem- 
bered ; but fully six weeks must have elapsed before news 

1 See letter + o Dacosta, Vol. I, p. 121. 


of this grave decision could have reached the colony. 

At this time Jean Audubon was no doubt regarded 
as a very rich man, and though he happened to leave 
Les Cayes at a critical moment, little could he have 
dreamed of the disaster that awaited him there as well 
as in his beloved France. His personal affairs during 
this eventful period, involving as they necessarily do 
the early life of his distinguished son, have hitherto been 
shrouded in the dark and sinister history of that ever 
smiling but ever turbulent island. Now, however, the 
veil of mist that has settled over the page can be pene- 
trated at the most important points. In this and sub- 
sequent chapters we shall follow the life of father and 
son through the course of events which has been thus 
briefly summarized. 

To return to the earlier threads of our narrative, 
at about the close of 1783 Captain Audubon was en- 
gaged by the Coirond brothers, colonial merchants at 
Nantes, to take charge of their foreign trade, which 
centered chiefly at Les Cayes, 2 Santo Domingo, then a 
most thriving and populous town, as it is today the 
largest seaport on the southern coast of the Republic 
of Haiti. Their ships brought sugar, coffee, cotton and 
other West Indian products to France, and laden with 

2 The proper name of this seaport town, as given by all French cartog- 
raphers and writers, is Les Cayes, meaning "the cays" or "keys" (small 
islands, Spanish cayos) ; omitting the article it is often simply written 
"Cayes." French residents on the island, however, when dating or ad- 
dressing a letter or receipting a bill would naturally write "aux Cayes," 
meaning of course "at The Cays," where the document was signed or where 
the person by whom the letter was addressed resided (see the Sanson bill, 
and bills of sale of negroes, Appendix I, Documents Nos. 1, 4, 5, and 6). 
It was thus an easy step for Englishmen, in ignorance or disregard of 
the French usage, to call the town "Aux Cayes"; even as early as 1797, 
Bryan Edwards, though giving the name correctly on his map, which doubt- 
less had a French source, wrote "Aux Cayes" in his text; the corruption 
has survived, and is occasionally found in standard works, but is too 
egregious to be tolerated. 


fabrics, wines and every luxury known to the colonists 
of that day, returned to Les Cayes, as well as to Saint 
Louis, an important port a little farther to the east, 
where these merchants also possessed warehouses and 

In a short time Jean Audubon had acquired an in- 
dependent business of his own, both as a planter and 
merchant. He made his home at Les Cayes, but ex- 
tended his enterprises to Saint Louis and possibly to 
other points. From this time onward he commonly 
described himself as negotiant, 3 or merchant, and his 
son, when writing to his father from America, addressed 
him in this way. His business letters and other docu- 
ments of the period refer to his house at Les Cayes, his 
plantations of cane and his sugar refinery, his exporta- 
tion of colonial wares, his purchases of French goods, 
particularly at Nantes, and to his trade in black slaves 
which eventually assumed large proportions. How im- 
portant his sugar plantations may have been is not 
known, but a tax-receipt shows that at one time he pos- 
sessed forty-two slaves. 4 The naturalist said that his 
father acquired a plantation on the He a Vaches, an 
island of considerable importance at the southern bound 
of the roadstead of Les Cayes and nine miles from the 
town, but we have found no other reference to it. 

Great numbers of negroes must have passed through 
Jean Audubon's hands, as shown by his bills of sale, 
which strangely reflect the customs of a much later and 
sadder day on the North American continent (see Ap- 
pendix I, Documents Nos. 4-6). In one of these bills, 

3 And sometime as rnarchand, more strictly a retailer. 

4 Since a colonist's wealth was estimated upon the numher of slaves 
he could afford, and since a slave was regarded as equivalent to a return 
of 1,500 francs a year, Jean Audubon's income on this basis would have 
been 63,000 francs. 


dated at Les Cayes, September 16, 1785, Jean is cred- 
ited with one-half the net proceeds of the sale of forty 
negroes, bought originally of M. Th. Johnston for the 
sum of 60,000 francs, and sold by Jean Audubon and 
Messrs. La Croix, Formon & Jacques for 71,552 francs; 
after deducting 183 francs for food and treatment, the 
net returns became 71,369 francs, and Jean's profits, 
on a half-interest basis, 5,684 francs, or about 142 
francs per head. The prices of these slaves, which were 
sold to planters on the island when not retained for 
their own use, ranged from 1,500 to 2,100 francs, or 
from $300 to $420, at the present rate of exchange. It 
is interesting to notice that while these negroes were held 
for sale, the exact period of which is not stated, they re- 
ceived as food eighty bunches of bananas and three beef 
heads; though under the care of a physician, it is not 
surprising to find that one of them died. Another bill, 
bearing date of August 7, 1785, records the sale to Jean 
Audubon of ten negroes and three negresses for a total 
sum of 26,000 francs; 16,000 francs of this amount was 
paid in sugar, but what is particularly interesting now 
is the fact that a balance of 2,000 francs was finally can- 
celled on June 9, 1788, a year or more after Jean Audu- 
bon, according to the accepted accounts, is supposed to 
have lost his wife and his property and to have fled from 
the island. Mme. Anne Moynet Audubon never visited 
America, and her husband, as we have seen, left Santo 
Domingo in 1789, before the outbreak of the revolu- 
tion. His property remained substantially intact until 
after 1792, and in some years, it is believed, yielded 
him in rents 90,000 francs, which at present rates in 
American money would be equivalent to $18,000. In 
giving his certificate of residence at Nantes in that 
eventful year, Captain Audubon publicly declared that 





After photographs made at Les Caves in June, 1917, and obtained through 

the kindness of Mr. Ferdinand Lathrop Mayer, Secretary of 

Legation, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 


he possessed a dwelling, a sugar refinery, and ware- 
houses or stores at both Les Cayes and Saint Louis. 
Moreover, his West Indian estate was not completely 
settled until 1820, two years after his death. 

Slaves were regarded in Santo Domingo as an in- 
dispensable commodity, as they had been in Virginia 
and the Carolinas for a century past, and were still to 
be for three-quarters of a century to come; the "friends 
of the blacks" as the abolitionists were called, were con- 
sidered by most planters as the enemies of the whites. 
Degradation and cruelty, ever attendant upon a system 
that drew its chief support from the self-interest of a 
class, were all too common in the island, yet there were 
many who earnestly strove to soften the lot of their 
slaves. Though a born fighter, Jean Audubon was hu- 
mane, and the evidence, so far as it goes, shows that 
his own slaves were treated with kindness and consid- 

This period in Santo Domingo, particularly from 
the year 1785 to 1789, not only is important for our 
story, but happened to mark a crisis in French sover- 
eignty in America. It will be necessary, therefore, to 
follow certain events in a history which can serve only 
as a warning to mankind, for it contains little to satisfy 
the understanding and nothing to excite the fancy or 
gladden the heart. It is to be noticed first, however, 
that according to the accepted accounts, John James 
Audubon was born of a Spanish Creole mother, in Lou- 
isiana, in 1780. Shortly after his birth, his mother is 
said to have gone to Santo Domingo, where she perished 
in a local uprising of the blacks, when Jean Audubon's 
plantations and property were totally destroyed; Jean 
managed to escape with only his two children, a few 
faithful slaves, and a part of his money and valuables, 


to New Orleans, whence he subsequently went to 
France. Investigation of existing records has proved 
that these statements are not in accord with the facts, 
but before entering into further personal details it will 
be well to examine those conditions on the island of 
Santo Domingo which led many into easy fortune only 
to involve them later in a ruin as complete and irre- 
trievable as it was unforeseen and unnecessary. 

For nearly a hundred years the western half of Santo 
Domingo had been held by France, and to every out- 
ward appearance it had enjoyed such unbounded and 
steadily increasing prosperity that it was regarded with 
envy on every side; in fine, it seemed to be one of the 
richest and most desirable colonies in the whole world. 
Historians, said an observer of a later day, 5 were "never 
weary of enumerating the amount of its products, the 
great trade, the warehouses full of sugar, cotton, coffee, 
indigo and cocoa; its plains covered with splendid 
estates, its hillsides dotted with noble houses; a white 
population, rich, refined, enjoying life as only a luxuri- 
ous colonial society can enjoy it." Few could then see 
the foul blot beneath so fair a surface, or realize that 
what had been bought by the misery and blood of a 
prostrate race would demand an equivalent, and that a 
settlement might be forced. 

Negroes had been imported into Santo Domingo 
from the African coasts in incredible numbers, first by 
Spain after she had succeeded in exterminating the in- 
offensive native Caribs, and later by France. One hun- 
dred thousand blacks of all ages were entering the col- 
onies each year, and to secure this number of bossals, 
as the native Africans were called, involved the death 

5 See Sir Spencer St. John, Hayti, or the Black Republic, 2d ed. (New 
York, 1889). 


of nearly as many more, either through the fighting that 
preceded their capture on land, or from the terrors of 
pestilence or shipwreck that awaited them at sea. By 
1790 the blacks of Santo Domingo outnumbered the 
whites sixteen to one, and the number of blacks then in 
the island was estimated at 480,000, in contrast to 30,800 
whites, and about 24,000 free mulattoes or "people of 

Under French rule the blacks had been subjected, 
as many believed, to a system of slavery unsurpassed 
for cruelty and barbarity. No doubt there were French- 
men who, in their fierce struggle to become rich, worked 
their slaves beyond human endurance and did not hesi- 
tate to terrorize them with the severest punishment upon 
the first symptoms of revolt; but, on the whole, such 
sweeping denunciations were probably unjust. An 
impartial observer and historian of that day, himself an 
Englishman, 6 declared that the French treated their 
slaves quite as well as the English did theirs, and 
clothed them better. He believed that the lot of the 
Santo Domingo blacks at the period of which we speak 
would compare favorably with that of the peasantry of 
Europe, a comment made familiar to American ears 
when applied to the slave population of the South. The 
real trouble came from the more enlightened disaffec- 
tion of the mulattoes and free negroes, fanned by the 
fanatic zeal of abolitionists abroad, particularly of those 
who formed the society of Les Amis des Noirs in 
France, who were determined to carry out their policies 
by any means and at whatever cost. 

The mulattoes were really in worse plight than the 
actual slaves, for they were virtually slaves of the State 

6 Bryan Edwards, Esq., M.P., F.R.S., &c, An Historical Survey of the 
French Colony in the Island of San Domingo (London, 1797). 


and had no master to whom they could appeal, being 
subject to military service without pay, to the corvee 
or labor upon the highways, the hardships of which 
were insupportable, as well as to a constant and galling 
tyranny. The law was invariably framed in favor of 
the white man, who, if he struck a mulatto, was subject 
to a trivial fine, while retaliation by the man of color 
might cost him his right hand. It should be added, 
however, that custom was usually more lenient than the 
law, and that such atrocious enactments were generally 
a dead letter. 

As might have been expected in the circumstances, 
the mulattoes took their revenge on the despised blacks, 
whom they were permitted to hold as slaves. They 
were notoriously the hardest taskmasters in the island, 
and in return they were naturally envied and hated by 
the ignorant mass of black humanity. The whites, to 
complete the discord, were divided among themselves, 
the Frenchmen from Europe affecting a superiority 
over the white Creoles, the seasoned natives of the 
island, a condition that never made for good feeling. 
Moreover, the white planter, who endeavored to gain a 
foothold by producing sugar, cotton or coffee, seems to 
have had a just grievance against the merchants whom 
the law favored and who set the price for negroes and 
all other commodities that had to be bought in exchange 
for produce. Such at least was the conviction and ex- 
perience of a keen observer, Francis Alexander Stanis- 
laus, Baron de Wimpffen, 7 who went to Santo Domingo 
in 1788, tried to establish himself as a coffee planter at 
Jaquemel, on the southern coast not far from Les 
Cayes, and after three years of fruitless effort, gave up 
the attempt in disgust, glad to escape, as from the flames 

1 See Note, Vol. I, p. 31. 


of purgatory, to the United States, where he settled 
in Pennsylvania. Baron de Wimpffen's lack of success 
no doubt colored his impressions of the country to some 
extent, but after making due allowance on this score, 
we find in his letters, beyond a doubt, an essentially 
true picture of Santo Domingan society and plantation 
life at the very time and place with which our story is 
most intimately concerned. A sketch of the picture 
which the Baron has drawn, though in brief outline, 
will enable us better to understand the real condition of 

The prevailing taste in Santo Domingo, according 
to this observer, was creolian tinctured with boucan, or 
with the characteristics of the buccaneers. White so- 
ciety on the island was divided into governmental or 
town officials, merchants, and planters, the several 
classes having their own interests, which were often con- 
flicting. The planters were concerned only with ne- 
groes, their sugar, their cotton or their coffee, and could 
talk of nothing else; values were reckoned in negroes, 
or in sugar, for which slaves were commonly exchanged. 
The laxity of morals, the absence of schools, and the 
total lack of books were patent on every hand. After 
sunset dancing was the chief form of amusement in the 
towns, and handsome mulattoes were the acknowledged 
Bacchantes of the island. It was from this class that 
housekeepers were usually chosen by the greater part of 
the unmarried whites. They had "some skill," said 
Baron de Wimpffen, "in the management of a family, 
sufficient honesty to attach themselves invariably to one 
man, and great goodness of heart. More than one 
European, abandoned by his selfish brethren, has found 
in them all the solicitude of the most tender, the most 
constant, the most generous humanity, without being in- 


debted for it to any other sentiment than benevolence." 
Expense of cultivation at this time is said to have 
risen out of all proportion to the value of the product. 
While negro service was a prime necessity to the planter, 
the African mine was becoming exhausted; even then 
slave dealers were penetrating a thousand leagues or 
more from the Guinea coast. Added to the cost of 
slaves, which was yearly increasing and had already 
reached to 2,000 or even 3,000 francs per head, the Gov- 
ernment exacted a ruinous capitation tax, which bore 
with special weight on the planter. 8 Physicians and 
lawyers, however ignorant, exacted exorbitant fees; 
masons and carpenters, however inefficient, demanded 
an unreasonable wage; they, we are told, with the mer- 
chant and official governmental class, were the only 
money makers on the island. The merchant whom we 
have seen taking the planter's produce at his own price, 
in exchange for slaves again at his own price, had the 
advantage in every business transaction; the planter, as 
a result, was his chronic debtor, and at usurious rates. 

Subject to an enervating climate, which Europeans 
with their intemperate habits could seldom endure for 
long, the planter, though weak and sick himself, was 
often obliged to be overseer, driver, apothecary, and 
nurse to his negroes, the slave of his slaves. In spite 
of every care, out of one hundred imported negroes the 
mortality was nearly twenty per cent in the first year. 
Where less oversight was given to their food, the slight- 
est scratch was likely to degenerate into a dangerous 
wound, while the most dreaded disease, then known in 
English as the "yaws" and in French as la grosse verole 

8 The Superior Council, sitting at Port-au-Prince, in 1780 fixed the tax 
for the parish of Les Cayes at the rate of 2 francs, 10 centimes per 
head, which in this instance was certainly trifling. (Note furnished by 
M. L. Lavigne.) 


(to distinguish it from the smallpox, la petite verole), 
was a scourge for which no remedy had then been found. 
Every slave was branded with a hot iron on the breast, 
with both the name of his master and that of the parish 
to which he belonged, but notwithstanding such pre- 
cautions desertions were far from uncommon. 

The Santo Domingan blacks were put to work in 
the morning with a crack of the arceau, a short-handled 
whip, delivered on their backs or shoulders, and so ac- 
customed had they become to the regularity of this 
stimulus that they could hardly be set in motion with- 
out it. How to manage the true bossal, as distinguished 
from the African Creole, with humanity and success was 
a problem to which many considerate planters must 
have addressed themselves in vain, if, as this one de- 
clared, the black's ruling passion was to do nothing, and 
he was by nature a thief, to whom indulgence was weak- 
ness and injustice a defect of judgment that excited 
both his hatred and his contempt. 

Stanilaus further observed that the soil of Santo 
Domingo was then already becoming exhausted, and he 
believed that the day of rapid fortunes for the planter 
had passed. "Calculate now," said he, "the privations 
of every kind, the commercial vicissitudes, the perpetual 
apprehensions, the disgusting details, inseparable from 
the nature of slavery; the state of languor or anxiety 
in which he vegetates between a burning sky, and a soil 
always ready to swallow him up, and you will allow 
with me that there is no peasant, no day-labourer in 
Europe, whose condition is not preferable to that of a 
planter of San Domingo." "I never met," he adds, 
"a West Indian in France who did not enumerate to 
me with more emphasis than accuracy, the charms of a 
residence at Saint Domingo; since I have been here, I 


have not found a single one who has not cursed both 
Saint Domingo, and the obstacles, eternally reviving, 
which, from one year to another, prolong his stay in 
this abode of the damned." 

Having followed De Wimpffen to this point, the 
reader is entitled to hear his parting epigrams. "The 
more I know," he said, of the inhabitants of Saint Do- 
mingo, "the more I felicitate myself on quitting it. I 
came hither with the noble ambition of occupying myself 
solely in acquiring a fortune; but destined to become a 
master, and consequently to possess slaves, I saw, in 
the necessity of living with them, that of studying them 
with attention to know them, and I depart with much 
less esteem for the one, and pity for the other. When a 
person is what the greater part of the planters are, he 
is made to have slaves : when he is what the greater part 
of the slaves are, he is made to have a master." 

Whether Jean Audubon's long experience would 
have confirmed all that has just been said is doubtful, 
for he was primarily a merchant or dealer and thus be- 
longed to the favored class. But what especially inter- 
ests us now is that both he and De Wimpffen were 
owners of plantations in the southern province of Santo 
Domingo at the same time. The one who wished to 
retain a valuable property followed the custom of the 
time by confiding the management of his affairs to an 
agent, either at a fixed salary or on a profit-sharing 
basis; while the other, who stayed long enough to dis- 
cern the trend of events, was glad to sell his land anc 
his slaves and shake the dust of the island from his feet 

forever. 9 

Before resuming the intimate details of our narra- 

9 Baron de Wimpffen sailed from Port-au-Prince for Norfolk, Virginia, 
in July, 1790, about a year after Jean Audubon had left the island. 


tive, we must follow the whirlwind of political events 
already set in motion in the island colony. In the spring 
of 1789 the white colonists of Santo Domingo took ad- 
ministrative matters into their own hands, and without 
vestige of legal authority, elected and dispatched eight- 
een deputies to the States-General, then sitting in 
France. These men reached Versailles in June, a month 
after that body had declared itself the National Assem- 
bly, but only six were ever admitted to its counsels. 
For a long time opposition to the planters had been 
fomented in Paris by the "Friends of the Blacks," the 
abolition society to which we have referred; stories of 
cruelty to the slaves, colored and intensified in passing 
from mouth to mouth, as invariably happens when 
atrocity tales are used as partisan weapons, added to 
the arrogance and extravagant habits of many planters 
when resident in the mother country, did not tend to 
soften the prejudice of the public towards their class. 
The planters could get no consideration at home, and, 
as we have seen, the Declaration of Rights followed 
promptly in August, while a legislative Assembly was 
ordered in September. Meantime the mulattoes on the 
island were clamoring for the political rights which the 
decree had promised them, and, to make matters worse, 
some of the influential whites espoused their cause, even 
preaching the enfranchisement of the blacks, from whom 
up to this time little had been heard. In short, the 
whites were divided as effectually as were blacks and 

The dominant party in Santo Domingo, led by the 
Governor-General, were determined to uphold the old 
despotic regime, while the General Assembly, which met 
at Saint Marc in obedience to orders from the mother 
country, on April 16, 1790, drafted a new constitution. 


The clash came in July of this year, and in the northern 
province, where the first blood of the revolution was 
drawn at Port-au-Prince. On October 12, 1790, James 
Oge, a mulatto, inspired, financed and equipped by the 
"Friends of the Blacks" in Paris, landed secretly in 
Santo Domingo, established a military camp at Cap 
Francois and called all mulattoes to arms. His plan 
was to wage war on the whites as well as upon all mulat- 
toes who refused to join his standard of revolt; but Oge 
and his company were quickly suppressed, and this in- 
competent leader, who fled to Spanish territory, was 
later extradited and broken on the wheel. This episode 
naturally infuriated the whites against all mulattoes, 
who took up arms at Les Cayes and at other points. 
The whites also armed, and a skirmish occurred at Les 
Cayes, Jean Audubon's old home, where fifty persons 
on both sides lost their lives, but a temporary truce was 
immediately effected. This was the first serious inci- 
dent in which the town of Les Cayes figured in the 
bloody revolution of Santo Domingo; it occurred, we 
believe, in the late autumn of 1790. Audubon's mother 
had then been dead four years, and her son, the future 
naturalist, had left the country in the fall of 1789; in 
order to bring out these facts clearly it has seemed neces- 
sary to enter into this detail. 

Later events in Santo Domingo now moved in a 
direction and with a velocity which few then were able 
to comprehend. The danger and the potency of the 
volcano that had long been muttering beneath their 
feet needed but a few touches from without to reveal 
its full explosive power. These were furnished not only 
by the mulattoes, many of whom, after having fought 
under French officers in the American Revolution, had 
returned to the island and there spread wide the spirit 


of disaffection and revolt; but also by the National 
Assembly in France, which by its vacillating policies 
destroyed every hope of reconciliation. In March, 1790, 
this Assembly granted to the citizens of Santo Domingo 
the right of local self-government, but only a year later, 
on May 15, 1791, tore up this decree and emancipated 
the mulattoes. When the news reached the island six 
weeks later, the colony was thrown into the utmost con- 
sternation; the whites as a class refused point-blank to 
accept the decision and summoned an Assembly of their 
own, which met in August. The mulattoes again took 
up arms, and the blacks, who by this time had been won 
to their side, started a general revolt which had its origin 
on a plantation called "Noe," in the parish of Acul, 
nine miles from Cap Francois. They began by burning 
the cane fields and the sugar houses and murdering their 
white owners. Thenceforth Santo Domingan history 
becomes an intricate and disgusting detail of conspira- 
cies, treacheries, murders, conflagrations, and atrocities 
of every description. The only ray of light comes from 
the first genuine leader of the blacks, the gallant but 
unfortunate Toussaint, in 1793. 

As has already been intimated, Jean Audubon's 
Santo Domingo property suffered long after he left the 
island, and certainly after 1792 when, as we shall soon 
see, revolutions were demanding his attention and all 
his energies at home. 



Les Cayes— Audubon's French Creole mother — His early names— Discovery 
of the Sanson bill with the only record of his birth — Medical practice 
of an early day — Birth of Muguet, Audubon's sister — Fougere and 
Muguet taken to France — Audubon's adoption and baptism — His as- 
sumed name — Dual personality in legal documents — Source of pub- 
lished errors — Autobiographic records — Rise of enigma and tradition — 
The Marigny myth. 

Santo Domingo, though repeatedly ravaged by the 
indiscriminate hand of man, is a noble and productive 
land, which, for the diversity and grandeur of its scenery 
and the rare beauty of its tropical vegetation, was justly 
regarded as one of the garden spots of the West Indies 
and worthy to be in truth a "Paradise of the New 
World." For every lover of birds and nature this semi- 
tropical island, and especially Les Cayes, upon its south- 
westerly verge in what is now Haiti, will have a pe- 
culiar interest when it is known that there, amid the 
splendor of sea and sun and the ever-glorious flowers 
and birds, the eyes of America's great woodsman and 
pioneer ornithologist first saw the light of day. 

Jean Audubon met somewhere in America, and 
probably at Les Cayes, a woman whom he has described 
only as a "creole of Santo Domingo," that is, one born 
on the island and of French parentage, and who is now 
known only by the name of Mile. Rabin. 1 To them was 

i From a land-owning family in the northern part of what is now the 
Republic of Haiti. 



born, at Les Cayes, a son, on the twenty-sixth of April, 
1785. This bov, who was sometimes referred to in earlv 
documents as "Jean Rabin, crcole de Saint-Domingue," 
and who again was called "Fougere" (in English, 
"Fern"), received the baptismal name of Jean Jacques 
Fougere six months before his sixteenth birthday. 

The bill of the physician, Doctor Sanson of Les 
Cayes, who assisted at young Audubon's birth still 
exists, and as the reader will perceive, it is a highly 
unique and interesting historical document. 2 Written 
in the doctor's own hand, it is receipted by him, as well 
as approved and signed by Jean Audubon himself. 
This tardy discovery, along with other pertinent records 
in the commune of Coueron, in France, finally resolves 
the mystery which has ever hedged the Melchizedek of 
American natural history. The child's name, of course, 
is not given in the bill, but authentic records of Audu- 
bon's subsequent adoption and baptism agree so com- 
pletely in names and dates as to establish his identity 
beyond a shadow of doubt. Much other documentary 
evidence which also has recently come to light is all in 
harmony with these facts, and further shows that the 
natal spot and time as given in the Sanson bill can refer 
only to this talented boy. But before turning to these 
legal documents we must examine the personal record 
of Jean Audubon's physician. 

Dr. Sanson's carefully itemized account, to the 
amount of 1,339 francs, extends over a period of nearly 
two years, from December 29, 1783, to October 19, 
1785 ; it was accepted and signed by Captain Audubon 
on October 12, 1786, and receipted by the doctor when 

2 For photographic reproduction see p. 54; and for transliteration 
and translation, Appendix I, Documents Nos. 1 and la; for "Fougere" 
see Appendix I, Documents Nos. 2 and 3; and for "Jean Rabin," Docu- 
ments Nos. 14, 16, 17 and 18. 


paid on June 7, 1787. The bill is interesting as a com- 
mentary on the medical practice of an early day, as well 
as for the light which it throws on Jean Audubon's 
Santo Domingan career, his establishment at Les Cayes, 
and his treatment of black slaves and dependents. This 
quaint document, moreover, tends to confirm a remark 
of Baron de Wimpffen to the effect that every doctor in 
Santo Domingo grew rich at his profession, and also 
recalls what he said in regard to the household remedies 
of the period. "Every colonist," to quote this observer 
again, "is commonly provided with a small chest of 
medicines, of which the principal are manna, salts, and 
rhubarb ; the country itself produces tamarinds, and the 
leaves of the cassia tree, a slight infusion of which, with 
a little orange juice, makes as good a purge as a mixture 
more scientifically composed." 

This physician's chief resources are seen to have 
been ipecacuanha, purgative decoctions, including such 
as the tamarind tree provided, manna, mineral waters, 
lotions, plasters, and kino, an astringent juice derived 
from different leguminous plants, which gave a red color 
to the saliva, not to speak of "other medicines," the na- 
ture of which is not revealed, which were liberally sup- 
plied to whites and blacks, both old and young, alike. 
It will be noticed further that the slaves of African 
birth when not named are referred to as "bossals," 
though many young blacks and mulattoes are called 
"Joue"; 3 that a cooper, attached presumably to the 

3 The word "Joue," which occurs eleven times in this document — as 
"mulatto Joue," "Joue mulatto," "negro bossal named Joue," and "little 
negro Joue" — suggests the English equivalent "Cheek," but no such usage 
appears to be authorized. It is evidently a proper name, and is more 
likely to prove the French rendering of a word common to one of the 
negro dialects of the island. On the other hand it might represent a 
corrupted pet name, like "joujou" or "bijou," bestowed by the French 
Creoles of Santo Domingo upon their favorite negrillons or petits nhgres, 

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Audubon sugar refinery, was dosed thrice daily with 
kino on four days in succession; and that this favorite 
treatment was repeated a month later. A clerk in the 
establishment, Monsieur Aubinais, is mentioned as re- 
quiring frequent attention, as well as Jean Audubon 
himself, who was once bled at the arm. 

In the entry for March 27, 1784, there is this inter- 
esting reference: "Inoculated Caesar, Jupiter, and 
Rose, at thirty francs each, ninety francs"; and if there 
were any doubt why Caesar had been inoculated, a hint 
is immediately given under May 11: "For attention, 
visits, and remedies, during the smallpox (la petite 
verole) of the mulatto Joue, sixty francs"; again we 
read: "June 30, inoculated a little negro bossed, named 
Joue, thirty francs." Every fresh batch of negroes 
landed in the colonies led to a new outbreak of this 
terrible scourge, and but one other disease, la grosse 
verole, 4 was more common or more fatal among the 
blacks. For a long period it had been a common prac- 
tice to inoculate both whites and blacks directly with 
the smallpox in order to secure some degree of protec- 
tion against its most virulent form, but this method of 
fighting the devil with fire had its disadvantages. By 
the end of the eighteenth century opinion was about 
equally divided upon the advisability of continuing the 
measure, since induced variola or smallpox was apt to 
be virulent, and was often quite as infectious as when 
manifested in the usual and natural way. Then came 
Edward Jenner's grand discovery, made twelve years 
before this date but not announced until 1798, that vac- 
cinia would prevent variola. Almost immediately vac- 

which played a more or less ornamental role in many households, whether 
as footmen or servants. In any case the use of this word is doubtless 
purely local. 

4 See Vol. I, p. 46. 


eination spread like wild fire over Europe, and it has 
never been appreciated more fully or more highly lauded 
by the best representatives of the medical profession 
everywhere than at the present day. 

The most interesting references in this historic 
document are to "Mile. Rabin," whose name occurs no 
less than seventeen times, beginning May 21, 1784, and 
closing with the entry for the seventeenth of August, 
1785. We learn that the physician spent the nights of 
April 24 and 25, 1785, at the woman's bedside, and that 
her child was born on the twenty-sixth day of that 
month, probably in the morning. It will be noticed fur- 
ther that she had been bled previously at the arm, that 
she had suffered also from the erysipelas, and that later 
she was treated for abscesses. These frequent attentions 
of the physician, extending over several months, the last 
record being for August 17, show only too clearly that at 
this time Audubon's mother was in feeble health. All 
that is further known about her is that she died either at 
the close of 1785 or in 1786, when her infant son was 
probably less than a year old. 5 

A daughter of Jean Audubon, Rosa, who was first 
called Muguet (in English, "Lily of the Valley"), was 
also born in Santo Domingo, and probably at Les Cayes, 
on April 29, 1787. Her mother, Catharine Bouffard, 
" creole de Saint-Domingue" who subsequently went to 
France, had another daughter, born also at Les Cayes, 
named Louise, who was living at La Rochelle in 1819. 6 

B It was stated in the act of adoption, which was drawn up in March, 
1794, that Audubon's mother had then been dead "about eight years," 
and the testimony of the Sanson bill shows that she was alive as late as 
October, 1785. 

8 The following letter of inquiry concerning Louise was written by 
Rosa's husband when Jean Audubon's will was being attacked in the courts 
at Nantes. It is dated at Coueron, June 26, 1819, and is addressed to 
"Monsieur Carpentier Chesse, engraver, place Royale, Nantes:" 

"Following the friendly offer that you made me, I have the honor of 


When Captain Audubon finally left the West Indies 
in the autumn of 1789, he took with him, in the care of 
trustworthy slaves, these two children, Fougere or Jean 
Rabin, aged four and a half years, and Muguet or 
Rosa, an infant of less than two. We know that he 
visited Richmond, Virginia, to collect a long outstanding 
claim against David Ross, then engaged in an iron in- 
dustry near that city (see Chapter VIII, p. 121), and 
it is possible that he traveled by way of New 
Orleans and the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. After 
spending some time at the close of this year in the 
United States, he went to France and made -a home 
for his children at Nantes. This city became essen- 
tially their permanent abode until their father's retire- 
ment from the navy on January 1, 1801, when he finally 
settled in the little commune of Coueron, on the north 
bank of the Loire. The storm that burst over Nantes 
soon after their arrival revealed the true colors of Jean 
Audubon's patriotism, and the man was seen at his best, 
as will be related in the following chapter. 

Madame Audubon, who had no children of her own, 
tenderly received the little ones, thus wafted from over 
the sea to her door in the Rue de Crebillon. 7 As the 

asking you to undertake, at your next visit to La Rochelle, the following 

"1. There should be at La Rochelle (it is thought at the home of 
the widow Scipiot) a Miss Louise Bouffard, born at Les Cayes, Santo 
Domingo, in America. 

"What is her position? What is she doing? What is her conduct? In 
short I should like to know absolutely all about her, being charged by 
the Madame, her mother, to make all inquiries." 

(Translated from original in French, Lavigne MSS.) 

7 A principal street in the old quarters of Nantes, leading from the 
Place Royale to Place Graslin. Jean Audubon named this street as his 
place of residence in 1792, when he was living in a house belonging 
to Citizen Carricoule. He made his home also at No. 39, rue Rubens, a 
short street, with many of its houses still intact, in the same quarter; this 
was rented of Francoise Mocquard for five years, beginning June 24, 1799 
(le 6 Messidor, an 7 ), at four hundred francs per annum. He also dwelt 


story proceeds we shall see that she was a most kind, 
if over-indulgent, foster mother, and became excessively 
proud of her handsome boy. "The first of my recol- 
lective powers," said the naturalist when writing of him- 
self in 1835, 8 "placed me in the central portion of the 
city of Nantes . . . where I still recollect particularly 
that I was much cherished by my dear stepmother . . . 
and that I was constantly attended by one or two black 
servants, who had followed my father to New Orleans 
and afterwards to Nantes." 

Jean Audubon, who spent a good part of his life at 
sea and in a country almost totally devoid of morals, 
must be considered as the product of his time. He was 
better, no doubt, than many who made greater profes- 
sions, better certainly than a Rousseau, who gave excel- 
lent advice to parents upon the proper methods of 
rearing their children but sent his own offspring to 
orphan asylums. As most men have their faults, said 
the son, the father "had one that was common to many 
individuals, and that never left him until sobered by a 
long life"; but, he added, "as a father, I never com- 
plained of him ; his generosity was often too great, and 
his good qualities won him many desirable friends." 
Whatever his faults, Jean Audubon was just, generous 
and possessed of a kind heart. He was in reality a truer 
father than many who give their children their name 
but deny them sympathy and a wise oversight. Jean 

at various times at No. 5, rue de Gigant, and in the rue des Carmes, 
where his wife possessed a house, as well as in the rue des Fontenelles 
and the rue Saint-Leonard. Very likely "La Gc-betiere" at Coueron was 
occupied intermittently, especially in summer, after the outbreak of the 
Revolution and his reverses in fortune; even after his retirement there in 
1801, he still kept a lodging (pied-a-terre) at Nantes, where, as it chanced, 
he died, though it was not his usual stopping-place. See Note, Vol. I, p. 86. 
8 See Maria R. Audubon, Audubon and His Journals (Bibl. No. 86), 
VOl. i, p. 8. 


Audubon not only cherished the two children but made 
them his heirs. On March 7, 1793, Fougere at the age 
of eight and Muguet at six were legalized by a regular 
act of adoption in the presence of witnesses at Nantes 
as the children of Jean and Anne Movnet Audubon. 
This step was taken at the very moment when the 
storm had burst over La Vendee, when the fate of 
Nantes was trembling in the balance and the life of her 
citizens was most insecure. The act of adoption reads : 9 

Extract from the registers of births of the sections of La Halle 
and Jean Jacques of the commune of Nantes, department 
of the Loire inferieure, on the seventh of March, 1794, the 
second year of the Republic, one and indivisible, at ten 
o'clock in the morning. 

Before us, Joseph Theulier, public officer, elected to deter- 
mine the public status of citizens, have appeared in the town 
hall, Jean Audubon, commanding the war sloop Cerberus, ves- 
sel of the Republic, aged forty-nine years, native of Les Sables 
d'Olonne, department of La Vendee, and Anne Moinet his wife, 
aged fifty-eight years, native of the former parish of Saint- 
Leonard, of this commune, who, assisted by Rene Toussaint 
Julien Beuscher, manufacturer, aged twenty-five years, living 
in the section of La Halle, Rubens Street, and by Julien Pierre 
Beuscher, marine surgeon, aged twenty-four years, living in 
the section of La Fraternite, Marchix Street, and employed 
steadily in the said war sloop Cerberus, have declared before me 
that they do adopt and recognize from this moment as their 
lawful children, to wit: 

A male child named Fougere, born since their marriage, which 
took place on the twenty-fourth of August, 1772, in the com- 
mune of Paimboeuf, in this department, to him, Jean Audubon, 
and a woman living in America, who has been dead about eight 
years, and a female child, named Muguet, born also since the 

9 For the original text of this act, here given in translation, see 
Appendix I, Document No. 2. 


marriage aforesaid, to him and another woman living in Amer- 
ica, named Catharine Bouffard, of whose fate he is ignorant. 
The two children being present, the first aged nine years, 
that will expire on the 22d of next April, the second aged 
seven years, that will also expire on the 26th of April next, and 
both having been born in America, according to this declara- 
tion that the witnesses above mentioned have signified as true, 
I have drawn up the present act, which the natural father and 
the mother by adoption, as well as their witnesses have signed, 
together with myself in this said day and year. 

It will be noticed that in this legally attested docu- 
ment, Bouffard, the true name of Muguet's mother, is 
given, while the name of the mother of Audubon is sup- 
pressed. It might therefore be inferred that the name 
Rabin, which appears later, was assumed, but as already 
remarked, such evidence is not conclusive. 

Fougere, who was also called Jean Rabin, was bap- 
tized on October 23, 1800, by a priest of the church of 
Saint-Similien at Nantes. The archives of this church 
for the period in question have disappeared, but Jean 
Audubon's copy of the record has survived, and reads 
as follows: 10 

The Act of Baptism of Jean Audubon-Rabin 
October 23, 1800 
We, the undersigned, certify to have baptized on this day 
Jean Jacques Fougere Audubon, adoptive son of Jean Audu- 

10 Research at Nantes in 1915 revealed that the baptismal records of 
the parish of Saint-Similien were wanting for the period from 1792 to 
1803, so it is probable that they were destroyed in the Revolution. The 
municipal archives of Nantes possess a book of baptismal records of the 
city without distinction of parishes, but this shows the names of neither 
"Fougere," "Rabin," nor "Audubon," for the year in question. 

The Abbe Tardiveau was un prtitre assermente, or one of those priests 
who had sworn in 1790 to recognize the civil constitution of the clergy. 

For copy of the act of baptism in the French original, see Appendix 
I, Document No. 3. It is impossible to say whether the heading as 
given in my copy of this act was in the original or not. 


bon, lieutenant of a frigate of the Republic, and of AnneMoinet, 
his legitimate wife, who being present bear witness that the 
adoption of the said Fougere, made by them, is in accordance 
with the present act. 

[Signed] Tardiveau, priest of Saint- 
Similien, of the town of Nantes. 

The act of adoption was drawn at a time when Cap- 
tain Audubon could have had little leisure to consult 
records had he been disposed to do so, but the dates 
of birth which he then gave for these two children were 
correct both as to the year and month. Fougere, how- 
ever, was born on the twenty-sixth, instead of the twen- 
ty-second of April, and Muguet, on the twenty-ninth, 
instead of the twentv-sixth, of that month. Audubon's 
mother's name is indicated in numerous legal documents 
of later date, and, as will appear, in every instance her 
son's identity is clearly established. 

Young Audubon, who disliked the names of Fougere 
and Rabin, and naturally wished to be rid of their early 
associations, adopted the fanciful name of "La For- 
est," 1X but used it only sporadically and for a short time. 
Some of his drawings of birds made at Nantes or Coue- 
ron as early as 1805, and in New York in 1806 and 1807, 
and possibly others of slightly later date, are signed 
"J. L. F. A.," or "J. J. L. Audubon." 12 

Jean Audubon and his wife are said to have settled 

"An English writer once gave the name of Audubon's mother as 
Mile. La Foret. 

"Audubon's signature underwent frequent variations during the first 
twenty-five years of his life, but after 1830 he almost invariably signed 
himself "John J.," or "J. J. Audubon." In the record of the civil 
marriage of his sister, at Coueron in 1805, his name appears as "J. J. L. 
Audubon;" in the "Articles of Association" with Ferdinand Rozier, signed 
at Nantes in 1806, it is "Jean Audubon," and in the release given on the 
dissolution of this partnership, at Ste. Genevieve, in 1811, the English 
form, "John Audubon," appears. 


some property upon "Jean Rabin, Creole de Saint Do- 
mingue" which he refused to accept, saying, "my own 
name I have never been permitted even to speak ; accord 
me that of Audubon, which I revere, as I have cause 
to do." 13 The reference in this instance was, I believe, to 
the final will of Lieutenant Audubon, 14 according to 
which his property, after being held in usufruct by his 
wife during her lifetime, was to be equally divided be- 
tween their two adopted children. In his first will the 
son was referred to as "Jean Audubon," but in the sec- 
ond and last document, executed in 1816, two years be- 
fore the testator's death, he appears as "Jean Rabin." 
Madame Audubon drew four wills; in the first, dated 
December 4, 1814, her adopted son is called "Jean Au- 
dubon"; in the next, of 1816, he is "Jean Rabin, Creole 
de Saint-Domingue" while in a draft written December 
26, 1819, he is styled simply "Jean Rabin"; finally, in 
her fourth and last testament of July 16, 1821, the word- 
ing is "Jean Audubon, called 'Jean Rabin.' It is 
thus very plain that Audubon's foster parents consid- 
ered it advisable to have his identity clearly set forth 
in legal documents. In one of his autobiographical 
sketches Audubon remarked that his own mother was 
said to have been as wealthy as she was beautiful, and 
if this were true, such caution might be explained and 
a key found to certain other enigmatical conditions 
which seemed to hedge his early life. But to such pos- 
sibilities it will be necessary to revert at a later point of 
our story. 15 

This dual personality was set forth by the naturalist 
himself, but in a more curious form, in a power of attor- 

13 This statement was made to me by Miss Maria R. Audubon in 1914. 
11 For full text of the six wills drawn at different times by Jean 
Audubon and his wife see Appendix I, Documents Nos. 13-18. 
35 See Chapter XVII. 

tartly . &tedu,vo: 



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audubon's signature at various periods from 1805 to 1847. 

The first, fourth and sixth are from early drawings; the second from Audu- 
bon and Rozier's "Articles of Association"; the fifth from a release 
given to Rozier; and the remainder from letters. 



ney 16 executed at Henderson, Kentucky, on July 26, 
1817, in favor of his brother-in-law, Gabriel Loyen du 
Puigaudeau. This measure was taken more than a year 
after Audubon's father had drawn up his last will, in 
which the son was referred to as "Jean Rabin," and was 
evidently designed to facilitate any settlement of this 
will which events in France might render necessary. 
The naturalist was then engaged in his famous but dis- 
astrous financial enterprises on the Ohio River, 17 but 
whether any intimation had come to him of possible legal 
troubles, which later actually ensued in France, cannot 
be stated. 

19 This unique document reads as follows : 

"To all to whom these presents may come: know ye that I, John 
Audubon, having special trust and confidence in my friend, G. Loyen Du 
Puigaudeau, of the Department of Loire and [sic] Inferieure, and Parish 
of Coueron, near Nantes, in the kingdom of France, [do constitute him] 
my true and lawful attorney, and the true and lawful attorney in fact of 
Jean Rabin, husband of Lucy Bakewell, of the County of Henderson 
and State of Kentucky, in the United States of America, for us [?], the 
said Jean Rabin, and in our name to our use and benefit, to ask, demand, 
sue fcr, recover, and receive all and every part of the Real and Personal 
Estate, that is to say Lands, Tenements, Grounds, Chattels, and credits, 
which I have, or either of us, in the Department of Loire and [sic] 
Inferieure in the kingdom of France, aforesaid, and to make sale of the 
same, either at auction, or by contract of the said Lands and Tenements, 
Goods, Chattells, and Credits, to receive the money arising from said 
sale, to give any Receipt, acquittance, or other discharge for the said 
money or any part thereof, if money or specie shall be received, or for 
any property he may receive in exchange or barter for said Real and 
personal Estate, and our said attorney, or the attorney of Jean Rabin 
aforesaid, is hereby authorized and empowered to make, give, execute, and 
deliver any Deed, Covenant, or transfer of said Real and Personal Estate 
to the purchaser of all or any part thereof for us, or for the said 
Jean Rabin, in as full and ample a manner as he, the said Jean, could 
do, was he personally present in said Department, in the Kingdom. In 
testimony whereof the said John Audubon has hereunto set his hand and 
affixed his seal the Twenty Sixth day of July, Anno Domini One thousand 
& Eight hundred and Seventeen. 

Johx J. Audubon [Seal within] 

On the back of the preceding is the notary's certificate that Jean Audu- 
bon appeared before him; seal affixed, and dated July 26, 1817. 

Signed, "A[mbroze] Barband, 
Notary of Henderson County, Kentucky." 
"See Chapter XVI. 


In reading the published accounts of Audubon's 
early life many have been puzzled by the absence of defi- 
nite dates, as well as by the numerous contradictions in 
which they abound. It is needless to burden this nar- 
rative with a tedious reference to all these errors or to 
attempt to trace their origin, which no doubt had many 
sources, but since we have given the first true account 
of the naturalist's birth, we cannot pass these matters 
without a word of comment. The situation is somewhat 
involved, since we should possibly differentiate between 
what Audubon at different times believed to be true, and 
what he wished to make known to his family or to the 
public; possibly also we should discriminate between 
what he actually published over his own signature dur- 
ing his lifetime and the material which has appeared 
since his death, even though originally written by his 
own hand. 

The first definite date which Audubon ever gave con- 
cerning his own life was that of his marriage in 1808, 
when he was twenty-three years of age, and all that 
he ever published of a biographical nature is to be found 
in his Ornithological Biography. 18 In the introduction 
to this work he simply said that he had "received light 
and life in the New World," and further that he returned 
to America from France, whither he had gone to receive 
the rudiments of his education, at the age of seventeen. 
Since Audubon's first return to America was in the 
autumn of 1803, when he was actually about eighteen 
and one-half years old, this statement is not so wide of 
the mark as to imply that the date of his birth was not 
then well understood. Moreover, the record of his adop- 
tion, which was certified to at the time of his baptism in 
1800, was carefully preserved among the family docu- 

3 Vol. i, p. v; see Bibliography, No. 2. 


ments, and there is no reason to suppose that knowledge 
of his age was ever withheld from him. Nevertheless, 
Audubon was inclined to overestimate his years, a char- 
acteristic rare in these days; when at Oxford in 1828 
he was asked for his autograph, and was begged to in- 
scribe also the date of his birth; "that," he said in record- 
ing the incident, "I could not do, except approximately," 
and his hostess was greatly amused that he should not 


While going down the Ohio River in 1820, bound for 
New Orleans, Audubon took advantage of a rainy day 
to write in his journal something about himself that he 
thought his children at some future time might desire 
to know. This brief record may or may not have been 
at hand when in 1835 he wrote the more extended ver- 
sion that finally saw the light in 1893. 19 Since the manu- 
script of the later sketch was presumably in possession 
of Mrs. Audubon when the biography of her husband 
was prepared in New York about the year 1866, that 
account in its various versions has furnished biograph- 
ers with practically all of the available material, not 
purely conjectural, concerning the naturalist's early life. 
Such additions as were made subsequently have proved 
to be very inaccurate. 

In the first of these sketches, which, so far as it goes, 
is more in strict accord with facts, Audubon said nothing 
of his birth, and of his mother remarked only that he 
had been told that she was "an extraordinary beauti- 
ful woman," who died shortly after he was born. His 
father, he added, saw his wealth torn from him, until 
there was left barely enough to educate his two chil- 
dren, all that remained of the five, his three elder broth- 

19 Published by Maria R. Audubon (Bibl. No. 78) in Scribner's 
Magazine, vol. xiii (1893). 


ers 20 having been "killed in the wars." He then believed, 
as he said, that his first journey to France was made 
when he was two years old. 

The later and fuller biography, referred to above as 
written in 1835 and published in 1893, begins with these 
words : 21 

The precise period of my birth is yet an enigma to me, 
and I can only say what I have often heard my father repeat 
to me on this subject, which is as follows: It seems that my 
father had large properties in Santo Domingo, and was in the 
habit of visiting frequently that portion of our Southern States 
called, and known by the name of, Louisiana, then owned by 
the French Government. 

During one of these excursions he married a lady of Spanish 
extraction, whom I have been led to understand was as beauti- 
ful as she was wealthy, and otherwise attractive, and who bore 
my father three sons and a daughter, — I being the youngest of 
the sons and the only one who survived extreme youth. My 
mother, soon after my birth, accompanied my father to the 
estate [sic] of Aux Cayes, 22 on the island of Santo Domingo, 
and she was one of the victims during the ever-to-be-lamented 
period of the negro insurrection of that island. 

My father, through the intervention of some faithful ser- 
vants, escaped from Aux Cayes with a good portion of his 
plate and money, and with me and these humble friends reached 
New Orleans in safety. From this place he took me to France, 
where having married the only mother I have ever known, he 
left me under her charge and returned to the United States in 
the employ of the French Government, acting as an officer 
under Admiral Rochambeau. Shortly afterward, however, he 

20 Whether Jean Audubon had other sons born in Santo Domingo is 
not recorded, and this reference of the naturalist, which was repeated in 
his later sketch, cannot be verified. 

21 See Maria R. Audubon, Audubon and His Journals (Bibl. No. 86), 
vol. i, p. 7. 

22 See Note 2, Vol. I, p. 38. 


landed in the United States and became attached to the array 
under La Fayette. 

The true history of Jean Audubon's commercial, 
naval, and civic career is given in the preceding and fol- 
lowing chapters. 

The naturalist, in his letters and journals, made fre- 
quent allusions to his age, but, as his granddaughter re- 
marked, with one exception, no two agree; hence, his 
granddaughter concluded that he might "have been born 
anywhere from 1772 to 1783." In the face of such 
uncertainty she adopted the traditional date of May 5, 
1780, adding that the true one was no doubt earlier. 
Audubon was thus five years younger than his biograph- 
ers supposed, and twenty-one years were added to the 
age of his father, who actually lived to be only seventy- 
four years old, while his son died in his sixty-sixth 


Wherever there is mystery there tradition is certain 
to raise its head, and though the naturalist carried his 
"enigma" to the grave, others, building upon his story, 
have fixed upon the very house in Louisiana in which 
he is said to have been born. Indeed, advocates of 
more than one house in that state as the probable scene 
of Audubon's nativity have arisen in recent times. We 
are obliged, therefore, to examine somewhat farther the 
now universally received but thoroughly erroneous idea 
that John James Audubon was a native of Louisiana 
at a time when that Commonwealth was part of a prov- 
ince of France. 

Upholding a tradition of rather recent growth, Au- 
dubon's granddaughter has expressed the belief that the 
naturalist was born in a house belonging to the famous 
Philippe de Marigny and known as "Fontainebleau." 


This was a sugar plantation on the north side of Lake 
Pontchartrain, three miles east of what is now the vil- 
lage of Mandeville and twenty-five miles due north of 
New Orleans. 

Pierre Enguerrand Philippe de Mandeville, Ecuyer 
Sieur de Marigny, 23 at one time owner of vast estates in 
and about New Orleans, was born in that city in 1750, 
and served as its alcade or mayor for two years. A 
lavish dispenser of hospitality, in 1798 he entertained 
in great state the Duke of Orleans, later known as 
Louis Philippe of France, together with his two broth- 
ers who accompanied him. He died at New Orleans, 
leaving five sons, of whom the third, Bernard Marigny, 
later became the owner of "Fontainebleau," which it 
has been mistakenly assumed was inherited from his 
father. At the time of the Duke of Orleans' visit just 
mentioned Jean Audubon had been out of the country 
nine years; there is no evidence of his ever having 
owned property at New Orleans, or ever having sus- 
tained any relations with the Marigny family. 

Before following the Marigny myth further, it will 
be interesting to notice a late echo of the "Fontaine- 
bleau" story. In 1910 the Reverend Gordon Bakewell, 
then in his eighty-ninth year, gave some interesting rem- 
iniscences of Audubon, and spoke very definitely con- 
cerning both the time and place of his birth. Dr. Bake- 
well was a nephew of Mrs. Audubon, and as a youth, in 
1834, had passed some time at her home in London. 
John W. Audubon, with his father's assistance, painted 
at that time a portrait of young Bakewell, who at a 

23 See J. W. Crozart, "Bibliographical and Genealogical Notes Con- 
cerning the Family of Philippe de Mandeville, Ecuyer Sieur de Marigny, 
1709-1S00," Louisiana Historical Society Publications, vol. v (New Orleans, 
1911). The portrait referred to below now hangs in the H. Sophie New- 
comb Memorial College, New Orleans. 


later day was welcomed in their home on the Hudson. 
Dr. Bakewell's contribution was as follows: 24 

The uncertainty as to the place of Audubon's birth has been 
put to rest by the testimony of an eye witness in the person 
of old Mandeville Marigny now dead some years. His re- 
peated statement to me was, that on his plantation at Mande- 
ville, Louisiana, on Lake Ponchartrain, Audubon's mother was 
his guest ; and while there gave birth to John James Audubon. 
Marigny was present at the time, and from his own lips, I have, 
as already said, repeatedly heard him assert the above fact. 
He was ever proud to bear this testimony of his protection 
given to Audubon's mother, and his ability to bear witness as 
to the place of Audubon's birth, thus establishing the fact that 
he was a Louisianian by birth. 

We do not doubt the candor and sincerity of the 
excellent Dr. Bakewell, but are bound to say that the 
incidents as related above betray a striking lapse of 
memory and an even greater misunderstanding of re- 
corded facts. Singularly a footnote to the paragraph 
quoted shows that the Marigny to whom he refers was, 
as must have been the case, Bernard Mandeville de Ma- 
rigny, who was born in 1785, the same year as the nat- 
uralist. Since both were in the cradle at the same time, 
he is hardly available as a witness. Moreover, the official 
records of the United States Government prove that 
the estate called "Fontainebleau" was not in possession 
of the Marigny family at the time of Audubon's birth. 
The land in question was granted to a Creole named 
Antonio Bonnabel, on January 25, 1799, by Manuel 
Gayoso de Lemos, Governor-General of the Province of 
Louisiana and West Florida. Bonnabel sold his tract 

24 Gordon Bakewell (Bibl. No. 90), ibid., p. SI. 


to Bernard Marigny in 1800, and Congress confirmed 
his title to it by a special act in 1836. 25 

Bernard Marigny served in the French army towards 
the close of the Napoleonic period, and his return to the 
United States from France, about 1818, is said to have 
been hastened by a duel which he fought with one of 
his superior officers. On his return he named Bonna- 
bel's old tract on Lake Ponchartrain "Fontainebleau," 
in remembrance of the place where his regiment had 
been assigned for duty in France, and eventually built 
upon the estate a sawmill and a sugar-house, and planted 
sugar cane, living meanwhile on another plantation two 
and one-half miles away. The latter estate was allotted 
by him in 1832, when he gave it the name of Mandeville ; 
the settlement thus started has since grown to a village 
of some 1,500 people. Here a summer house which be- 
longed to Bernard's father still exists, although in al- 
tered form; it has been raised to accommodate a lower 
story, and is now known as the "Casino." According to 
those who have most carefully investigated existing rec- 
ords, this is the only house in Mandeville which belonged 
to the elder Marigny at the time of which we speak. 

25 See Laws of the United States, Treaties, Regulations, and Other 
Documents Respecting the Public Lands, vol. i, p. 301 (Washington, 1836). 
In Number 756, entitled "An Act for the Relief of Bernard Marigny, of 
the State of Louisiana," Marigny is mentioned as assignee of Antonio 
Bonnabel, and his claim, which was confirmed, is described as follows: a 
tract of land of 4,020 superficial arpents, in the State of Louisiana, parish 
of St. Tammany, "bounded on the southwest by Lake Ponchartrain, and 
on the northwest by lands formerly owned by the heirs of Lewis Davis." 

I am informed by Mr. Gaspar Cusachs, president of the Historical 
Society of Louisiana, who has carefully investigated the titles of this 
property and to whom I am indebted for much information concerning 
it and its owners, that the tract described above included the estate of 
"Fontainebleau." Marigny's claim included also a smaller tract of 774 
arpents in the same parish. This land was bounded on the southwest 
by Lake Ponchartrain, on the north by Castin Bayou, and on the south 
by the tract acquired from Bonnabel; it was granted to the heirs of 
Lewis Davis in 1777, and certain of them filed a claim for it in 1812. 


Bernard Marigny was one of those who befriended 
Audubon when he was in desperate straits at New Or- 
leans in 1821, by advancing him money in return for 
portraits or drawings of birds. He died in that city in 
1868, when in his eighty-third year, a poor and honest 



Background of Audubon's youth — Nantes in Revolution — Revolt in La 
Vendee — Siege of Nantes — Reign of terror under Carrier — Plague rob- 
bing the guillotine — Flight of the population — Execution of Charette — 
The Chouan raid — Citizen Audubon's service — He reenters the navy and 
takes a prize from the English — His subsequent naval career — His 
losses in Santo Domingo — His service and rank — Retires on a pension — 
His death— His character and appearance. 

The ancient city of Nantes, long famed for the beauty 
of its situation on the banks of a noble river, within 
easy reach of the sea, as well as for its importance in 
the arts of war and peace, numbered at the time of the 
Revolution 70,000 souls. The modern visitor to this 
favored spot will find quiet and orderly streets adorned 
with monumental statues (one of these representing 
Guepin, the revered historian of the city ) , the old build- 
ings nearly all replaced by better, the Loire spanned by 
handsome bridges, and the ancient bounds of the town 
extended until it has become the sixth city of the Re- 
public. Since Nantes formed a somber background to 
Audubon's youth, we shall follow in brief some of the 
ordeals through which his family, in common with thou- 
sands of other Nantais, were destined to pass during 
those eventful years which witnessed the close of the 
eighteenth century in France. 

When Captain Audubon reached Nantes presumably 
not far from the beginning of 1790, he found the city 
in a state of the greatest turmoil and agitation. The 



commons, or third estate, included hundreds of its rich 
and influential citizens, and their demands for a fair 
hearing and a representation equal to that of the other 
orders had then passed the stage of open revolt, for they 
had planted their "liberty tree" and were sworn to de- 
fend it. In August of 1789 a permanent Committee 
of Public Safety had been constituted at Nantes, and 
by the end of that month 1,200 had volunteered for serv- 
ice in the National Guard. There were many loyalists 
in the city but they could not crush the ardent spirit 
of this revolt, and when in September money was needed 
to equip the revolutionary soldiery, young school chil- 
dren raised large sums for the popular cause. Jean 
Audubon immediately cast his lot with the revolution- 
ists and joined the National Guard, but how much serv- 
ice he saw in the field cannot now be determined; it is 
known, however, that he was with these troops in the 
spring of 1792. 1 

In March, 1793, the loyalists of La Vendee rose to 
arms, and marching on Nantes under the able leadership 
of Charette, threatened to put its garrison to the sword 
if it were not surrendered within six hours. The Na- 
tional Guard met these invaders outside the walls and 
left the citizens to shift for themselves. Thus thrown 
upon their own resources, the Nantais showed that they 
could help themselves. They requisitioned and used for 
defense everything at hand; they exhumed the leaden 
coffins in their grand cathedral and appropriated water- 
spouts for ammunition, while their church bells were 
molded into cannon. Though held in check, the Ven- 
deans laid siege to the city, and but for the resolution 
of its mayor, Baco, Nantes would probably have fallen 
— in which event Audubon would have had a different 

J One period of this service bears date of May 31. 


history and would probably never have become a pio- 
neer naturalist in America. Baco, disregarding the 
advice of his military chiefs, immediately placarded the 
walls of Nantes decreeing death to any who should 
suggest capitulation, and called all the inhabitants to 
arms, sparing neither woman nor child. The Vendeans 
had met their match, for they were dealing with many 
of their own blood, but though the siege began in early 
March, they were not effectually dispersed until the end 
of June, and then only after much bloodshed without 
the walls. When the immediate crisis had passed, the 
Constitution of the Republic was unanimously accepted 
by the eighteen sections of Nantes, on the twenty-first 
day of July, 1793. 

A few months later in that fateful year a more ter- 
rible calamity befell the city, when the reign of terror 
under the notorious ultra-revolutionist, Jean B. Carrier, 
began. Carrier reached Nantes on October 8 and at 
once proposed to exterminate both the Vendean royal- 
ists and their Nantais sympathizers. He reorganized 
the entire administration to suit his purposes, and to 
carry out his plans recruited from the lowest classes a 
revolutionary army to spy upon, denounce and arrest 
private citizens, many of whom were sent to Paris for 
trial when not secretly dispatched. The whole district 
was soon paralyzed by the barbarity of the crimes then 
committed, and the unhappy Vendeans were dragged to 
Nantes, to be shot, guillotined or drowned, in such num- 
bers that the city was unable to bury its dead or the 
river to discharge them to the sea. Thus perished thou- 
sands, uncounted if not unknown, and the pestilence of 
typhoid fever that immediately followed claimed an- 
other heavy toll regardless of political sympathies. 
While these dire scenes were being enacted, Jean Jacques 


Fougere Audubon, then a lad of eight years, was living 
in the heart of Nantes, and his father was one of its 
leading revolutionists. An aunt of the future orni- 
thologist, according to his account, who was one of these 
wretched victims of revolutionary fury, was dragged 
through the streets of Nantes before his eyes, but appar- 
ently she did not actually meet her death at that time. 2 

That Jean Audubon moved his family out of Nantes 
during the revolutionary crisis is possible, and Coueron 
would have been available as a place of refuge. Many 
Nantais are known to have fled to Lorient on the coast 
of Brittany, where they found in the heroic youth Jul- 
ien the ardent and fearless patriot who was destined 
to become the real savior of their stricken city. Young 
Julien denounced Carrier in his letters to Robespierre, 
and when one of these was intercepted, defied him in 
person. When his stirring appeals finally reached the 
Tribunal at Paris, its misnamed representative was re- 
called, and left Nantes under cover of night on Febru- 
ary 14, 1794. During his mad reign of four months, 
Carrier had gone far towards carrying out his theory 
of republican government, that should begin, as he 
openly avowed, by "suppressing" half of the population 
of France. The records show that nearly nine thou- 
sand bodies were buried in Nantes in a little over three 
months, from January 15 to April 24, 1794. The plague 
of fever no doubt accounted for many of these, but the 
wide reaches of the Loire never told their full story. 

Though the most grievous affliction of Nantes passed 
with the recall of Carrier, the city had no lasting peace 
until the execution of the Vendean leader, Charette, in 
March, 1796; "Poor Charette," said Audubon, writing 
in his journal at Liverpool, December 24, 1827, "whom 

2 See Note 4, Vol. I, p. 27. 


I saw shot on the place de Viarme at Nantes." This 
virtually ended the war in the Vendee, but the Chouans, 
under their intrepid chief, Dupre, the miller, called 
"Tete-Carree," managed to furnish considerable excite- 
ment, and raided Nantes in 1799. Dupre's followers 
stole in secretly at three o'clock on the morning of Octo- 
ber 19 and left before daylight, after liberating fifteen 
royalists from the prison, which seems to have been their 
chief purpose. The cannon of alarm was fired from 
the Chateau ; the tocsin sounded, calling the city to arms ; 
there was much street fighting, but it was too foggy and 
dark«to distinguish friend from foe, and when the Na- 
tional Guard was finally assembled, the enemy had 
vanished. This brief attack cost the city twenty-one 
deaths and wounds for twice the number, 3 but it was 
only a passing incident in comparison with events that 
had gone before. Thenceforth the history of the town is 
blended with that of the nation. 4 

We have only slight indications of Jean Audubon's 
activities from the close of 1789, when, according to his 
own statement, he was in the United States, to the period 
of his service in the National Guard at Nantes in the 
spring of 1792 ; he was then living in the house of Citizen 
Carricoule, rue de Crebillon, and the lease of his "Mill 
Grove" farm, which was renewed in October, 1790, was 
dated at Nantes. We may safely assume that he was 

3 The mayor, Saget, at the moment he was crossing the Place Egalite 
(the Place Royale of today) received point-hlank a ball in his right thigh 
and another in his left leg, and lost both limbs. 

4 For the revolutionary history of Nantes I am chiefly indebted to 
M. A. Guepin's excellent Histoire de Nantes, 2d ed. (Nantes, 1839); Hipp. 
Etiennez, Guide du Voyageur a Nantes, et aux Environs (Nantes, 1861); 
A. Lescadien et Aug. Laurent, Histoire de la Ville de Nantes, t.2 (Nantes, 
1836) ; F. J. Verger, Archives curieuses de la Ville de Nantes et des 
Departments de I'Ouest, t. 5 (Nantes, 1837-41); and to a scholarly mono- 
graph by Dugast-Matifeux, entitled Carrier a Nantes: Precis de la Conduite 
patriotique et revolutionnaire des citoyens de Nantes (Nantes, 1885). 


engaged in revolutionary business during most of this 
interval: his name begins to appear in the written rec- 
ords of Nantes and of the department of the Lower 
Loire in January, 1793, and existing documents 5 show 
that he was engaged as a commissioner and member of 
the Department and as a member of the Council of the 
Navy until the twenty-fifth of June, when he enlisted for 
active service in the navy of the Republic. Jean Audu- 
bon served also on various republican committees, his 
duties comprising the enlistment of recruits, organizing 
the National Guard, soliciting funds and food supplies 
for Nantes, finding cannon and other military or naval 
materials, posting proclamations, administering the oath 
of allegiance, and watching the movements of loyalist 
troops in the district. We have seen that the father 
of the naturalist was a game and determined fighter, and 
there is ample written testimony to prove that in the 
commune of Nantes he was regarded as an ardent 
patriot, who could be relied upon to act with tact, and 
if necessary with force. 

Having been appointed a Civil Commissioner by the 
Directory of the Department on January 17, 1793, Citi- 
zen Audubon was sent to Savenay, a town of some im- 
portance twenty-five miles to the northwest of Nantes. 
His instructions on this mission were to gather useful 

6 The unpublished documents of this Department are preserved in the 
archives of the Prefecture at Nantes, and through the courtesy of their 
custodians I was enabled to examine them freely. These documents 
deal with all the revolutionary changes in church and state consequent 
upon the breaking down of the old regime, and with the enrollment of vol- 
unteers and the dispatch of armed forces to centers of disturbance 
throughout that district. The present manuscripts are said to represent 
but a fraction of those which originally existed, the archives having been 
subjected to repeated raids, thefts, and wanton destruction by fire and 
other means. The most important have been listed and published by the 
Government in summary form under the title, Les Archives du Departement 
de la Loire Inferieure, 1790-1799, Serie L. (Nantes, 1909). 



. iBHf 



F * 


^H^v8~/ : 











information on the civil, moral and political state of the 
district, "in order to bring a remedy," and to administer 
the oath of allegiance to all administrative and judicial 
bodies. Jean began operations without delay, and his 
report, which was kept in journal form and embraces 
the period from January 19 to September 10, 1793, is 
an interesting document ; it covers fifty-one large fools- 
cap pages, written now in a fine and again in a bold, 
regular hand, in the course of which his characteristic 
signature 6 occurs no less than twenty-two times, each 


From the original in the archives of the prefecture at Nantes. 

section of the report having been signed as completed. 
In one section of this journal he wrote: "Our opera- 
tions having been finished, we assembled around the tree 
of liberty, and there sang the hymn of the Marseillaise, 
which was interrupted with frequent shouts of 'Vive la 
republique!/ 'Vive la nation!/ and more than one charge 
of musketry." 

Jean Audubon with eight others was charged with or- 
ganizing the National Guard in the canton of Pellerin, 
and ordered to accompany the detachment that marched 
to the relief of Pornic, March 27, 1793. The Citizen 
was busy also in other directions. He said in his report: 

a During the Revolution Jean Audubon always added to his signature 
the cabalistic sign of three dots between parallel lines, which possibly 
stood for the three watchwords of the Republic — "Libertc, EgaUte, Fra- 


In virtue of the power conferred upon us by the Central 
Committee, on the ninth of April we were transported to the 
parish of Coueron, where we arrived at seven o'clock in the 
morning. Proclamations were posted both at Coueron and at 
Port Launay close by, while some were sent across the river to 
Pellerin. We availed ourselves on this occasion of the services 
of two officers of a corsair, who demanded that we aid in re- 
moving from Pellerin four cannon with four-pound balls, and 
we succeeded in putting to flight a small barque and four 
men, who an hour later returned with cannon. . . . The parish 
of Coueron appears very tranquil, and is in a better mood than 
[at first] seemed to us. 

A little later Jean proceeded to PaimDoeuf on a simi- 
lar errand. His letters to the citizen-administrators of 
that commune are dated at Nantes on the seventeenth 
of April and the fourteenth of May ; in one of these he 
refers to "the sum of four hundred francs" due from 
the Administration "for one year's rent of my house in 
calle Rondineau (a la calle rondino), which you have 
taken for a corps de garde" (see Vol. I, p. 32) . 

In July and August of this second year of the Repub- 
lic, Citizen Audubon was sent to his native town of Les 
Sables d'Olonne to follow the movements of the loyalist 
generals Westermann and Boulart, 7 a mission which 

7 In the published orders and correspondence of the royalist General 
Boulart the following letter, given here in translation, is addressed to 
Citizen Audubon: "I give you notice, Citizen, that my aide-de-camp will 
arrive immediately from Niort. I beg you to do all in your power to 
come this evening to confer with me, since I have something to ask 
you of the utmost importance. I also inform you that there has arrived 
at Les Sables Citizen Anguis, the people's representative. Perhaps it 
would be more advantageous that you should see him this evening, and 
that tomorrow early we attempt to bring all three together. You could 
depart in the morning for Nantes." [Signed] "The General Boulart." 
Jean Audubon filed this letter from the enemy with his Department, but his 
answer is not given. See Ch. L. Chassin, Etudes Documentaires sur La 
Revolution Frangaise: La Vendee Patriote, 1793-1800, vol. ii, p. 306, t. 1-4 
(Paris, 1894-1895). 


could hardly have been agreeable if, as seems to have 
been the case, some of his own people were loyal to the 
old regime. Correspondence by sea between Les Sables 
and Nantes, which was open before the siege, was not 
broken at this time, for the royalists had named one of 
their representatives, Benoit, as a delegate "to fraternize 
with the citizens of Nantes, to invite the authorities to 
correspond, and beg them to send food if they had more 
than they required." Four of Jean's letters, dated at 
Les Sables on the fifth and eighth of July and the sixth 
of August, besides one from La Rochelle on the four- 
teenth of July, all addressed to the Administration of 
the Loire Inferieure, have been preserved. 

In the manuscript records of the Department for 
1793 is found also a notice of Jean's appointment as Spe- 
cial Commissioner, with a memorandum of all the money 
paid to reimburse him for the expenses of his numerous 
journeys. Thus, it is noted that he had been paid 145 
francs for a service of twenty-nine days, which would 
represent the modest allowance of a dollar a day. An- 
other item shows that he had received 100 francs for a 
tour of ten days; a note which was added to this item 
to explain the Directory's sanction for the payment of 
another forty-five francs and ten sous reads as follows: 
"by its order of the sixth of March last, the Council had, 
in effect, named Citizen Audubon as its Commissioner, 
to visit the coasts and to secure signatures, with full 
power to treat with all people, to acquire materials 
for the navy and other objects of his mission; if this 
mission did not prove successful, it was solely through 
force of circumstances, and not from any lack of zeal 
on his part." 8 

8 Dclibfrratiom-Arretes de Directoire du Departement. In MSS. pp. 



On the twenty-fifth of June, 1793, while engaged in 
duties to which we have just referred, Jean Audubon 
was appointed, with rank of ensign, to command the 
Republican lugger named the Cerberus. 9 During this 
charge, which lasted until the twenty-second of Novem- 
ber of the following year, he fought one of the stiffest 
engagements of his career. On the twelfth of July he 
encountered the Brilliant, an English privateer of four- 
teen cannon which had captured an American ship laden 
with flour ; and after a desperate battle which lasted three 
hours, in the course of which Jean was wounded in the 
left thigh, the Englishman, beaten and obliged to sur- 
render his prize, was glad to escape under cover of night. 
Jean towed the American into the port of La Rochelle, 
and afterwards sent to the Administration a full account 
of the engagement. 10 Ensign Audubon's next command 
was a dispatch boat called UEveille ("The Awak- 
ened"), on which he served for nearly nine months, from 
November 23, 1794, to August 14, 1795. He was then 
detailed for port duty at La Rochelle from August 15, 
1795, to January 24, 1797. His last ship was L'lnsti- 
tuteur ("The Institutor" ) , which he commanded with 
the rank of ensign-commander from January 25 to 
October 3, 1797, while he was engaged in govern- 
mental business between the ports of La Ro- 
chelle and Brest. 

The financial losses which Lieutenant Audubon sus- 
tained at Les Cayes in consequence of the revolution 
in Santo Domingo were a crushing blow to him ; he never 
recovered his fortune, later estimated by his son-in-law 

9 Jean was actually in command of this war vessel in March of that 
year, as shown by a document given in full in Chapter IV (p. 59). 

10 These records are on file in the archives of the Department of 
Marine at Paris, but access to them will doubtless be denied until peace 
is restored in Europe. 


at a sum which at that day would have been fabulous. 11 
The business house in which he was interested failed ; his 
plantations, refinery, houses and stores, the rents from 
which, as we have seen, in certain years after 1789, had 
yielded 90,000 francs, were presumably ravaged and 
partially destroyed. When the news of this misfortune 
reached him after 1792, his hands were tied by revolu- 
tions at home. Though he applied to his Government 
for relief, as undoubtedly did a host of other losers, he 
was eventually granted only a small indemnity, not 
exceeding 30,000 francs. 

Friends of Jean Audubon at Nantes had made re- 
peated demands of the Ministry of Marine that he be 
given a rank more in accord with his patriotism and effi- 
cient service to the State, and on October 11, 1797, he 
was commissioned lieutenant-commander (lieutenant de 
vaisseau), 12 one grade below that of captain. He held 
this rank for three years, during which he was engaged 
in vigilance service at Les Sables d'Olonne and in mili- 
tary duty at Rochefort, or until he was retired from 
the navy for disability, January 1, 1801 (le 11 nivose, 
an 9), at the age of fifty-seven. 13 He had served the 

11 M. L. Lavigne writes that he possesses a copy of a letter addressed 
by M. G. L. du Puigaudeau to a lawyer in Paris, in which it is stated 
that Lieutenant Audubon's losses amounted to 1,500,000 francs. After 
making due allowance for the psychological tendency to overestimate losses, 
especially when sustained in remote and romantic lands, the true amount 
was no doubt large. 

12 Or "lieutenant of a frigate," and corresponding to "mate" in the 

merchant marine. 

13 The certificate which Lieutenant Audubon received at the time of 
his discharge is preserved among the Lavigne manuscripts and docu- 
ments at Coueron, and is headed: 

Port ETAT des Services du Citoyen Jean Audubon natif des 

DE Sables d'Ollonne Departement de La Vendee age de 

Rochefort. 58 ans. 

It is signed by the Chief of Administration, Daniel, the Naval Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the District, Martin, and by the naval commissioner 
and clerk, February 26, 1^01 (le sept Veniose, an 9 de la Republique). 



.E.TAT da Services du Ckojcn • /run Cfniiu/u 

natif Acs . /ultt-1 D '0//v/n»iu Departement dc /a. "Vtndtts 
age* tie S8 Ott^ 

'to ft. 



From a photograph of the original in the Lavigne MSS. 

State for over eight years, and his total period of active 
duty on sea and land when employed in the merchant 
marine and navy of France, as estimated from port to 
port, amounted to nineteen years, nine months and 
twelve days, while it had extended with interruptions 
over more than forty years. 14 After this long period 

14 Jean Audubon was 11 years, 6 months and 25 days in the service of 
the merchant marine of France (service au commerce), in the course of 


of service, when, suffering from a pulmonary affection, 
he applied to his Government for a pension, he received 
the paltry annuity of 600 francs or $120. 

With this modest pension and a property yielding 
an income not above $2,000 a year, 15 Lieutenant Audu- 
bon retired to his quiet villa of "La Gerbetiere," at Coue- 
ron, where he could indulge his taste for country life and 
for raising his favorite fruits and flowers; he is said to 
have kept some live stock, but could have been a farmer 
only on a modest scale. Meanwhile he continued to 
maintain a house, or at least rooms, at Nantes, whither 
he went periodically to conduct his correspondence and 
business affairs. The following letter of attorney, issued 
by Lieutenant Audubon a year after he had retired from 
the navy, shows that he still had interests in Santo Do- 
mingo, and was endeavoring to collect rents, long over- 
due, from houses and stores that belonged either to 
himself or to his clients. Whether through the dishon- 
esty of agents or from what other cause, this property 
which the elder Audubon held in his own right seems 
gradually to have melted away: 

The 19th pluviose, in the eleventh year of the Republic, 
one and indivisible [January 7, 1802], before the public no- 
taries of the department of Loire inferieure, who reside in 
Nantes and Doulon, the undersigned have seen present the 

which he rose to the rank of captain of the first grade in 1774. He 
served in the French navy (service a Vetat) 8 years, 2 months and 17 
days, ranking successively as sailor, ensign-commander, and lieutenant- 
commander (lieutenant de vaissean); 8 months and 22 days of this period 
(1768-1769) were in intervals of peace, and 7 years, 5 months and 25 days 
(1793-1801), in times of war. Any conflict which may seem to occur in 
titles must be attributed to this double service. 

15 This property was evidently encumbered to a considerable extent, 
for he repeatedly filed with the Department letters for the removal of 
restrictions placed upon it (lettres pour obtenir la main levee). I can- 
not give the dates of these letters, but believe that they were drawn in 
1801 or shortly after. 


citizen Jean Audubon, lieutenant of frigate, retired, and pro- 
prietor at Santo Domingo, aged 59 years, infirm and unable 
in consequence of his infirmities to go himself to attend to his 
business affairs in Santo Domingo, living in Rubens Street, in 
the Mocquard house, 10 No. 39, in the city and commune of 
Nantes, department of Loire inferieure: 

Who has made and constituted for his general and special 
attorney Jean Francois Blanchard, merchant, and originally 
from the commune of Chataubriand, department of Loire in- 
ferieure, living at the town of Les Cayes, in the southern section 
of the island of Santo Domingo, opposite He a Vaches, to whom 
he gives full and complete powers to revoke for him, and in 
his name, every preceding bill of attorney, for the purpose of 
managing the stores [magazins] at Les Cayes, in the southern 
part of Santo Domingo, opposite He a Vaches : To demand and 
obtain all accounts from the holders of said properties, who 
have had or still have charge of them there; to examine the 
said accounts, to debate, close up and stop them ... to lease 
the said properties, without the power of making any exten- 
sive repairs to them whatsoever, about which he had not in- 
formed the constituent in France, and that he has not author- 
ized him there to do, at least by a special letter, it being under- 
stood that the actual tenant is obliged to make all the neces- 
sary repairs to the said houses and stores to the extent of 
15,000 francs, and he should not use more than 4,000 francs 
yearly for the space of five years, counting from the month of 
thermidor, year 8 [July 19-August 17, 1800]. 

It is demanded of citizeness Fauveau, or of her assigns, to 
know the reason why she has failed, to the present moment, to 
pay to the constituent in France for the domicile of the citi- 
zeness Coyron, 17 the twelve thousand six hundred francs that 

16 This house was rented at the time to Francoise Mocquard (see 
Note 7, Vol. I, p. 57), hut it is prohahle that Lieutenant Auduhon had 
reserved rooms which were occupied during his visits to the city while 
his permanent home was at Coueron. In the power of attorney issued 
by Jean Audubon, his wife, and Claude Francois Rozier, at Nantes, April 
4, 1806, the senior Audubon gave his residence as "rue Rubens, No. 39. 

17 Presumably a widow of one of the Coyrons Cor Coironds), mer- 


she should annually pay to him, according to the act of July 
15, 1788, as given by Domergue, notary at Les Cayes. You 
will satisfy them with the state of the dwelling house in the 
plain of Jacob, opposite He a Vaches. 

This was sold by the said act to the said citizeness Fauveau 
and to her late husband by the said constituents, to whom he 
will report regularly on the state of affairs, at least twice in 
the year. . . . 

[Signed at Nantes] J. Royer [one of 
the undersigned notaries] 

Lieutenant Jean Audubon died at Nantes, 18 when on 
a visit to that city, on February 19, 1818, at the age of 
seventy-four, "regretted most deservedly," said his son, 
"on account of his simplicity, truth, and perfect sense 
of honesty"; "his manners," he continues, "were those of 
a most polished gentleman . . . and his natural under- 

chants at Nantes, whose business interests in Santo Domingo were en- 
trusted to Jean Audubon's hands in 1783 (see Chapter III, p. 38). 

"The following extract from the registry of deaths at Nantes, which 
is here given in translation, indicates that Lieutenant Audubon passed 
away suddenly, since his death did not occur in his own apartments (for 
original see Appendix I, Document No. 19): 

"In the year 1818, on the 19th day of February, at eleven o'clock 
in the morning, in the presence of the undersigned, deputies and officers 
of the civil service, delegates of Monsieur the Mayor of Nantes, have 
appeared the Messrs. Gabriel Loyen du Puigaudeau, gentleman of leisure, 
son-in-law of the deceased, residing hereafter at Coueron, and Francis 
Guillet, grocer, living on the Quai de la Fosse, of legal age, who have 
certified in our presence that on this day, at six o'clock in the morning, 
Jean Audubon, retired ship-captain, pensioner of the State, born at Les 
Sables d'Olonne, department of La Vendee, husband of Anne Moinet, 
died in the house of Mlie. Berthier, in the Chaussee de le Madeleine, No. 
24, 4th Canton. 

"The witnesses have signed with us the present act, after it was 
read to them. The deceased was 74 years of age." 

[ Gabriel Loyex du Puigaudeau, 
"Signed in the register: -j Guillet, and Joseph de la 

[ Tullaye, deputy." 

The Audubons and Du Puigaudeaus were probably buried in one of 
the large cemeteries at Nantes, since no trace of their graves has been 
found at Coueron by M. Lavigne. 


standing had been carefully improved both by observa- 
tion and by self education." Jean Audubon's means in 
France had been reduced partly by bad debts, for he 
seems to have been generous in lending money to his 
friends; Madame Audubon found herself greatly ham- 
pered by lack of ready money, although, as her son- 
in-law remarked, her hands were full of notes. 

When Jean Audubon applied for nomination to the 
naval service of the Republic in 1793, we find a descrip- 
tion of his previous life and habits recorded as a part 
of the information required by the Committee of Pub- 
lic Safety. The commune of Nantes at that time gave 
a flattering testimonial to his patriotism, in which he 
was described as an officer of merit, who had acquired 
through long experience at sea an extensive knowledge 
of navigation, who was a man of honor, and devoid of 
any inclination to vice or gambling ; his nautical experi- 
ence had been chiefly gained in American waters, the 
voyages of his choice being those to Santo Domingo and 
the United States. 

At the age of forty-eight the elder Audubon thus 
briefly described himself : short in stature, measuring five 
feet, five inches; face, oval; eyes, blue; nose and mouth, 
large; eyebrows, auburn; hair and beard turned gray. 
Contrary to the naturalist's expressed belief, there seems 
to have been little or no physical resemblance between 
father and son. At a corresponding age, John James 
Audubon, according partly to his own account, stood 
five feet, ten inches in stockings; his hair was dark 
brown; he had sunken, hazel eyes, flecked with brown, 
and of remarkable brightness; while his clean-cut profile 
showed an aquiline nose. "In temper," said the son, to 
continue the comparison, "we much resembled each other, 
being warm, irascible, and at times violent, but it was 


like the blast of a hurricane, dreadful for a time, when 
calm almost instantly returned." 

Though passionate at times, Jean Audubon was a 
man of force and decision, as his career amply shows. 
If he does not loom large in the history of his time or 
was but little known beyond the limits of his province, 
it must be remembered that the time called forth thou- 
sands of the ablest men of his nation. 



Molding of Audubon's character — Factor of environment — Turning failure 
into success — An indulgent stepmother — The truant — His love of 
nature — Early drawings and discipline — Experience at Rochefort — 
Baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. 

It is now commonly believed that of the three great 
factors which mold character — environment, training 
and heritage, the last is the most important, since it alone 
is predetermined and unalterable. Environment may 
be uncertain or unsuitable, training defective or de- 
ferred, but blood is the one possession of which the 
child cannot be robbed; and since it sets the limits to 
possibility, in no small degree must it determine the ac- 
quisitions and accomplishments of a lifetime. This, 
however, is not the whole truth. Race may account for 
much, but it does not account for everything; the child 
is effectually robbed whenever it is not permitted to 
realize to the full upon its inheritance. To be able to 
convert possibilities into actualities it must receive fit 
training and right incentives, and if at critical times the 
proper spur is wanting, its patrimony may be sadly 
wasted. The "good environment" for the youth, too 
often thought to be the soft conditions of an easy life, 
is in truth that only which provides the proper and 
necessary stimulus. This may be now fear or pride, now 
hard necessity or bitter want ; again, an awakened sense 
of responsibility or ambition to excel may be induced 



by concrete examples and fostered, as it often is, by 
lofty purposes and the uplift of a high ideal. 

Audubon's life affords a striking proof of the power 
which environment can exert in awakening dormant 
capacity, in developing talents to their full and calling 
into use every force held in reserve. When we consider 
what his life work finally became, and what he eventu- 
ally accomplished in a field for which he had no train- 
ing, except in drawing, we find it easier to wonder 
at the man than to criticize him. With a formal school- 
ing in France of the slenderest sort, in which the writ- 
ing of his own language was never completely mastered, 
at eighteen he came to America and adopted a new 
tongue, which he first heard from the Quakers. Twenty 
years more were to elapse before he had a definite plan, — 
during which his environment was mainly that of a 
trader and storekeeper in the backwoods, never remote 
from the white man's frontier, hardly the soil one would 
seek for the development of budding talents in art, lit- 
erature or science. Failure in trade was one of the 
spurs which started Audubon on his ultimate career, 
for it led to the immediate development of the talents 
which he possessed ; the encouragement which he received 
from his wife was undoubtedly another. When he final- 
ly emerged, like a somewhat wild but well ripened fruit, 
at the age of forty, rich in experience, ready to absorb 
what from lack of earlier motives or opportunities he 
had failed to acquire, and with the determination to 
succeed, he won recognition as much through his person- 
ality and enthusiasm as by his extraordinary versatility 
and talents. 

In an early sketch of his life Audubon said that his 
father had given both him and his sister an education 
appropriate to his purse; his teachers were possessed of 


agreeable talents, and he might have stored up much 
had not the continental wars in which France was then 
engaged forced him from school at an early age, when, 
much against his will, he entered the navy as midship- 
man, at Rochefort. This naval experience terminated, 
as he then recorded, in 1802, during the short peace 
between England and France; he was then seventeen 
years of age. 1 This was the year following his father's 
retirement, and the year previous to his first independent 
visit to the United States. 

More details of this early period were given later, 
when the naturalist spoke with great affection of his 
foster mother, to whom his education had been mainly 
entrusted. "Let no one speak of her as my step-moth- 
er," said he; "I was ever to her as a son of her own flesh 
and blood, and she was to me a true mother." His every 
idle wish was gratified, he tells us, and his every whim 
indulged, in accordance with the notion that fine clothes 
and full pockets were all that were needed to make the 
gentleman: "She hid my faults, boasted to every one 
of my youthful merits, and, worse than all, said frequent- 
ly in my presence, that I was the handsomest boy in 

If Madame Audubon broke the prevailing tradition 
and bjr going to the other extreme did her best to spoil 
this affectionate boy, some allowance must be made for 
parental over-indulgence. In 1793, when the future 
naturalist was eight years old, the public buildings of 

1 Audubon said that he was at the time fourteen years old, which 
could not have been the case, but when writing in 1835 he placed this 
experience at shortly before his return to America, which would have 
been in the winter of 1805-6; "I underwent," to quote this later account, 
"a mockery of an examination, and was received as a midshipman in the 
navy, went to Rochefort, was placed on board a man-of-war, and ran a 
short cruise. On my return, my father had in some way obtained pass- 
ports for Rozier and me, and we sailed for New York." 


his city had been converted into prisons and its streets 
were both unsanitary and unsafe, while in the following 
year, as we have seen, a mortal plague began to rob 
the prisons and the guillotine. Many had lost their all 
in the tempest that swept over them; many more had 
fled, and public schooling at Nantes must have been at a 
stand or disorganized for a considerable period. 

Young Audubon could not have tasted much school- 
ing before the outbreak of the Revolution, when he was 
seven years old, and but little after it, since this dis- 
cipline practically terminated in 1802. His passionate 
love of nature, which was undoubtedly innate, was mani- 
fested at an early day. Living things of every descrip- 
tion which he found by the banks of the Loire or along 
the stonewalls and hedgerows of Coueron gave him the 
greatest pleasure, but birds were his early favorites. 
These he soon began to depict with pencil and crayon, 
but to the dryer discipline of the school he ever turned 
with laggard feet. 

When the versatile Lord Avebury, who became one 
of the greatest modern students of the powers of ants 
and other social insects, was four years old, his mother 
made this record in her diary: "His great delight is in 
insects. Butterflies, Caterpillars or Beetles are great 
treasures, and he is w T atching a large spider outside my 
window most anxiously." The same boy at eight, when 
writing home from school, added this postscript to a 
letter: "I am a favorite with most of the boys because 
I do not care about being laughed." The boy who has 
a good inheritance, follows his own bent, and does "not 
care about being laughed," may be on the road to success 
and with talents may achieve distinction. John James 
Audubon was one of those boys, although his path was 
never strewn with the roses that many have imagined. 


The naturalist tells us that his father hoped that he 
would follow in his footsteps, or else become an engineer, 
and he saw that his son was instructed in the elements 
of mathematics, geography, fencing and music. But as 
Lieutenant Audubon was continually on the move, su- 
pervision in those matters fell to the over-indulgent step- 
mother, with the result that, instead of doing his duties 
at school, young Audubon took to the fields. Every 
night, he said, he would return with his lunch basket well 
laden with the spoils of the day — birds' nests, eggs, and 
curiosities of every sort destined for the museum into 
which his room had already been transformed. He was 
then in the "collecting stage," when that sense of pos- 
session dominates the heart of the boy, which, if well 
directed, can be turned to excellent account. 

Lieutenant Audubon encouraged his son's taste for 
natural history and for drawing, but did not regard such 
accomplishments as a substitute for what he considered 
more serious subjects. He himself had suffered too 
much from lack of a formal education and was resolved 
to give his children the best opportunities within their 
reach. "Revolutions," he once remarked, according to 
his son, "were not confined to society, but could also 
take place in the lives of individuals," when they were all 
"too apt to lose in one day the fortune they had before 
possessed; but talents and knowledge, added to sound 
mental training, assisted by honest industry," could 
"never fail, nor be taken from any one when once the 
possessor of such valuable means." 

When the elder Audubon returned from one of his 
periodic cruises, "my room," said the naturalist, "made 
quite a show," and the father complimented him on his 
good taste ; but upon being questioned in regard to the 
progress made in his other studies, he could only hang his 


head in silence. His sister Rosa, on the contrary, who 
was also called to account, was warmly commended upon 
the improvement shown in her musical exercises. The 
next morning at dawn a carriage was drawn up before 
the Audubon door, and with the father and son, together 
with the latter's trunk and violin, was soon proceeding 
in the direction of Rochefort. The sailor had laid his 
plans and was about to execute them in his own way. 
Presently, said the son, his father drew forth a book 
and began to read, thus leaving him to his own resources. 
In this way they traveled for a number of days, not an 
unnecessary word being spoken during the entire jour- 
ney, until the walls of Rochefort had been passed, and 
they alighted at the door of the father's house in that 
city. When they had entered, the naturalist continues, 
"my father bade me sit by his side, and taking one of my 
hands, calmly said to me: 'My beloved boy, thou art 
now safe. I have brought thee here that I may be able 
to pay constant attention to thy studies; thou shalt 
have ample time for pleasures, but the remainder must 
be employed with industry and care. This day is en- 
tirely thine, and as I must attend to my duties, if thou 
wishest to see the docks, the fine ships-of-war, and walk 
around the wall, thou mayest accompany me.' 

The youth accepted his father's proposal with good 
grace, and was presented to the officers whom they met, 
but he soon found that he was like a prisoner of war 
on parade. He was enrolled at once in the military 
school, where he was placed under the immediate care 
of Gabriel Loyen du Puigaudeau, his future brother-in- 
law. It was not long, however, before young Audubon 
gave his guardian the slip; he jumped from the window 
of his prison and made for the gardens of the Marine 
Secretariat, but a corporal, whom he had recognized as 


a friend, suddenly nipped his plans in the bud ; he was 
ordered, he said, aboard a pontoon, then lying in port, 
and there was obliged to remain until his father, who 
was absent at the time, finally released him, "not without 
a severe reprimand." The following record, written 
long after, is reminiscent of this period: "This day 
twenty-one years since I was at Rochefort in France. 
I spent most of the day at copying letters of my father 
to the Minister of the Navy. . . . What has happened 
to me since would fill a volume. . . . This day, January 
first, 1821, I am on a keel boat going down to New 
Orleans, the poorest man on it." 

Audubon's stay at Rochefort, the date of which is 
no doubt correctly given in the journal just quoted, was 
lestined to be short. After a year he returned to Nantes, 
and later to "La Gerbetiere," where as before he spent 
all of his leisure in roaming the fields and looking for 
birds, their nests, their eggs and their young. At about 
this time, when fifteen years of age, Audubon began 
to make a collection of his original drawings of French 
birds, which was greatly extended in 1805 and 1806. 

He has recorded that at the behest of his foster moth- 
er, who was an ardent Catholic, he was confirmed in that 
Church when "within a few months of being seventeen 
years old"; he was surprised and indifferent, but "took 
to the catechism, studied it and other matters pertaining 
to the ceremony, and all was performed to her liking." 
Since no record of this act has been found, it is probable 
that the ceremony in question was confused with that 
of his baptism, which, as we have noticed, occurred on 
October 23, 1800, six months before he attained his 
sixteenth birthday. 

After having seen something of the character of Au- 
dubon's early training in France, it will not be surpris- 


ing to find that when, at the age of forty-five, he first 
seriously began to write for publication and in English, 
which was not his mother tongue, he found himself han- 
dicapped in many ways. In after life he wrote that the 
only school which he had ever attended was that of Ad- 
versity, and that his tuition there had been of a pro- 
longed and elaborate character. Though this statement 
was made under the stress of present feeling, it was 
not wholly devoid of truth. 




Audubon is sent to the United States to learn English and enter trade — 
Taken ill— Befriended by the Quakers— Settles at "Mill Grove" farm- 
Its history and attractions — Studies of American birds begun — En- 
gagement to Lucy Bakewell — Sports and festivities. 

If there were ever a time when Lieutenant Audubon 
wished to see his son following the victorious eagles of 
Napoleon, whom he is said to have idolized, the hated 
conscription of that day, which was robbing every home 
in France of its best blood, might well have brought 
counsels of prudence. Little could the father have 
thought that by following other eagles of his own choice, 
his son was destined to add a far greater luster to the 
family name. Whatever may have turned the scale, in 
1803 a decision was quickly reached, and the issue was 
fortunate for the future of natural science in America; 
it was decided that young Audubon should emigrate 
at once to the United States, with what end in view we 
shall soon see expressed in the sailor's own words. Ac- 
cordingly, to his "intense and indescribable pleasure," 
the future naturalist, who had now passed his eighteenth 
birthday, eagerly prepared for the journey, the first of 
many that were later to become memorable in the annals 
of American science. No record of this voyage has been 
preserved, but from evidence derived from a variety of 
sources we can fix the time as the autumn of 1803. 1 

1 Audubon, writing in 1820, described himself at this time as "a 
young man of seventeen, sent to America to make money (for such 



Audubon's introduction to the country of his adoption 
proved most inauspicious, for, to follow his account, 
when walking to Greenwich in Connecticut, some thirty 
miles from New York, to cash the letter of credit that 
his father had given him, he was seized with the yellow 
fever. 2 Fortunately at this critical moment his captain 
came to his aid, and placed him in the care of two Quaker 
ladies who kept a boarding house at Morristown in New 
Jersey. To the faithful ministrations of these kindly 
sisters the naturalist believed that he owed his life. 

When Jean Audubon finally left the United States 
not far from the beginning of 1790, he placed his busi- 
ness interests in America in charge of an agent, named 
Miers Fisher, "a rich and honest Quaker of Philadel- 

was my father's wish), brought up in France in easy circumstances;" 
but in the same journal he said that he did not reach Philadelphia until 
three months after landing, and that "shortly after" his arrival at "Mill 
Grove" the Bakewell family moved to "Fatland Ford." Mr. G. W. Bake- 
well, the historian of his family, states that in the spring of 1804, William 
Bakewell, Audubon's future father-in-law, with his son, Thomas, traveled 
through Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland in search of a farm; they 
purchased "Fatland Ford," which was then the property of James Vaux. 
Audubon's account of the Pewee (Ornithological Biography, vol. ii, p. 124) 
shows that he was at "Mill Grove" before April 10, when "the ground 
was still partially covered with snow, and the air retained the piercing 
chill of winter." If these various statements are correct, they would indi- 
cate that Audubon left Nantes about the middle of November, 1803, 
and that he finally reached "Mill Grove" not far from the end of 
March, 1804. On the other hand, Mr. W. H. Wetherill, the present 
owner of "Mill Grove," informs me that his records indicate that the 
Bakewells occupied "Fatland Ford" in January, 1804. If this were the 
case, young Audubon could not have left France later than August, 
1803. Too much weight, however, should not be attached to such references 
of a biographical character in Audubon's own writings; for in the account 
referred to above Audubon said that after his first visit to the United 
States he remained two years in France and returned to America "early 
in August;" while we know that his sojourn in France lasted but little 
more than a year and that he landed in New York on the 28th of May. 
2 A plague of genuine yellow fever had visited New York in 1795, 
but in 1804 and 1805 the city suffered from a malignant fever of another 
type, and to such an extent that 27,000 persons, or one-third of the 
entire population, are said to have fled to escape the pestilence. This 
was possibly the malady which seized young Audubon not far from the 
beginning of the former year. 


phia," and to the hands of this trustworthy man he now 
confided his son. Accordingly, when young Audubon 
had been nursed back to health, word was sent to his 
father's friend, who came in his carriage and drove the 
lad to his own home in the outskirts of Philadelphia. To 
follow the account which the naturalist gave, when writ- 
ing of this visit a quarter of a century later, his host, 
finding his charge to be a comely youth, and having a 
daughter "of no mean appearance," proposed that he 
should remain with them and become one of the family. 
Audubon seems to have suspected that this was a pre- 
meditated scheme to entangle him in marriage, and as 
he had no liking for the severity of Quaker manners, 
determined to make his escape. This, he said, was finally 
accomplished by appealing to his own rights and to the 
honest Quaker's sense of duty in seeing him established 
on the estate which his father had designed for him. 
Though effective for the time, as will presently appear, 
this appeal was quite fanciful, for Jean Audubon's ideas 
concerning the future of his son were of a more practical 
character, and he had no intention at this time of estab- 
lishing him at "Mill Grove," which was soon to be sold. 
The friend to whom the following letter was addressed 
is implored to aid in finding a good American family 
in which his son could acquire the English language as 
a step to entering trade: 3 

This will be handed to you by my son, to whom, I request 
} r ou will render every service in your power, wishing that you 
slid, join Mr. Miers Fisher to procure him a good and healthy 
place where he might learn english. I come to point out to 

3 The rough draft of a letter in English, evidently written by Lieutenant 
Audubon to be delivered by his son to the ship's captain, and probably 
in duplicate to his agent, Miers Fisher, but bearing no name or date. 
(Lavigne MSS.) 


you Morristown, and look for a good and decent familly in that 
place to recommend him to her as your own Son. This service 
from you will deserve my everlasting gratitude. I am Sir, with 

Yr Mo ob Ser — . 

Mr. Miers Fisher, who evidently received a copy of this 
letter, no doubt considered his own family as good as 
the best, and in detaining young Audubon at his home, 
we must credit him with the desire of following the in- 
structions thus received. 

"Mill Grove," which was finally reached in the spring 
of 1804, 4 was a new-found paradise to the young natu- 
ralist. Here, however, he was destined to spend but little 
over a year, though it was doubtless the happiest year 
of his life. The farm was then conducted by a Quaker, 
named William Thomas, who was installed as tenant 
with his wife and family. It was arranged, said Audu- 
bon, that he should receive from them a quarterly allow- 
ance in ready money, in a sum that "was considered 
sufficient for the expenditure of a young gentleman." 5 
Well might any youth fond of wild life in the country 
have fallen in love with this secluded spot, the beauty 
and charm of which are suddenly revealed to the visitor 
of today as he approaches it from the old Philadelphia 
road. Standing high on the rugged banks of the Perkio- 
ming Creek, which empties into the Schuylkill River 
just below this point, the old house, facing west, com- 
mands a wide and diversified scene, extending from the 
living waters below, over bottom lands of the valley, to 
the dim, undulating lines of the Reading hills in the far- 

4 See Note, Vol. I, p. 98. 

6 The yearly rent of "Mill Grove" in 1804, according to the accounts 
of Francis Dacosta, who had then acquired a half interest in it, amounted 
to $353.34. 


ther distance. This old landmark G of Colonial times re- 
mains today in perfect preservation, thanks to the never- 
failing care and interest of the present owner, 7 who has 
done all in his power to maintain its historic associations, 
and to keep the memory of the naturalist green in one 
of the few spots in America where material landmarks 
of his career have not been completely effaced. The 
place has had an interesting history, and though Audu- 
bon's occupancy was brief, it affected, as we shall see, 
his whole after-life. 

Audubon thought nothing of walking to and from 
Philadelphia when no conveyance was at hand, but to- 
day the railroad brings the traveler within a mile and 
a half of his old farm. Not far to the south, beyond 
the present railway station of Protectory, lies Valley 
Forge and the wooded hills where Washington's ragged 
veterans passed in log huts the ever memorable winter of 
1777-8. Audubon fancied that his father had made the 
acquaintance of General Washington at that date, but 
this was eleven years before the place had come into the 
possession of his family, and at that time Captain Audu- 

6 "Mill Grove" farm is in Montgomery County, twenty-four miles 
northwest of Philadelphia, in the town known, after 1823, as Shannonville, 
hut in 1899 rechristened "Audubon;" Norristown is five miles to the east. 

7 Mr. William H. Wetherill of Philadelphia, whose hospitality I have 
enjoyed and to whom I am indebted for many interesting facts and 
records pertaining to "Mill Grove." Samuel Wetherill, Mr. W. H. 
Wetherill's grandfather, was one of the first to bring "black rock," or coal, 
from Pleading to Philadelphia. Samuel Wetherill, Junior, who is said to 
have started the first woolen mill in the country and to have produced the 
first white lead made in the United States, purchased "Mill Grove" for 
the sake of its minerals in 1813, the war having put a stop to all importa- 
tions from England at that time. He actually succeeded in extracting se: 
eral hundred tons of lead from the "Mill Grove" mines, doing better, it is 
thought, than any who preceded or followed him. Samuel Wetherill, Junior, 
died in 1829, and was succeeded in the lead and drugs industry by his four 
sons, of whom Samuel Price Wetherill became the owner of "Mill Grove" 
in 1833. The farm remained in the hands of the Wetherill family until 1876, 
and returned to them again, when the present owner came into possession, 
in 1892. 

"mill grove" in 1835, showing the mills on the bank of 

creek, the farmhouse, and the old smelting works (built by 

samuel wetherill), then in disuse. 

After a water-color painting by Charles Wetherill, son of Samuel Wetlierill, 
and uncle of William H. Wetlierill, the present owner of the estate. 



The above from photograph by, and this published bv courtesy of, 

Mr. W. H. Wetherill. 


bon was sailing the seas (see Chapter II, p. 32) . Equal- 
ly fanciful also was the idea that his mother had once 
lived there, which he expressed in a letter (quoted in full 
in Chapter XXXIII) written from New York on Feb- 
ruary 10, 1842, to young Spencer F. Baird, at Carlisle, 
Pennsylvania. The naturalist was assuring his young 
friend that the slow but beautiful "Little Carlisle" was 
to be preferred to "Great New York, with all its hum- 
bug, rascality, and immorality," and added: "It is now a 
good long time since I was young, and resided near Nor- 
ristown in Pennsvlvania. It was then and is now a very 
indifferent place as compared with New York ; but still 
my heart and my mind oftentime dwell in the pleasure 
that I felt there, and it always reminds me that within 
a few miles of that village, my Mother did live." 

The soil of this farm region is of a dark red color, 
owing to a friable shale which outcrops everywhere. 
The high, wooded bank of the Perkioming abounds in 
caves, scooped out by the hand of nature or man, as 
well as in great pits and shafts, for deep down under its 
shale, "Mill Grove" was rich in minerals, particularly 
the sulphide of lead, associated with copper and zinc, to 
reach which many excavations have been made. The 
lead mines of this farm are said to have been famous 
in Revolutionary times, and have been worked sporad- 
ically for a hundred years ; if traditions are trustworthy, 
many a winged bullet that laid a Red-coat low in the 
War of Independence was a messenger from "Mill 
Grove." In some of the old conveyances, which go 
back to the time of Penn, the place was commonly desig- 
nated as the "Mill Grove Mines Farm." It is recorded 
that the original tract of two thousand acres, extending 
from the Schuylkill to the Perkioming as far as the 
mouth of Skippack Creek, was sold to Tobias Collett by 


William Perm in 1699 for fifteen shillings. We shall 
soon see that the mineral wealth which "Mill Grove" 
was supposed to hide beneath its rugged slopes was a 
source of no little trouble to the Audubons, the Roziers, 
and their successors for many a year. 

At the foot of the declivity towards the west, half 
hidden by foliage, stood a picturesque stone mill, at a 
point where a solid rampart had been thrown across the 
stream to divert its power to the use of man. Hard by 
was the miller's house, which antedates the mansion, 
and which was built and first occupied by James Mor- 
gan, who came into possession of the property in 1749. 
It was this old mill site, originally distinct from the 
farm, that gave the name to the place. Behind the 
gristmill an extensive sawmill, built over the mill race, 
was also in operation. Today the dam is broken 
through, and the great mill wheel of wood and iron, 
twelve feet in diameter and fifteen feet wide, has come 
to rest after turning for more than a century. 

Like the mill, the original house on the hilltop was 
built of rough-hewn native stone, which is brown or 
red and very hard. It consists of two stories, with cen- 
tral hall, and a curiously divided attic with dormer win- 
dows, which Audubon is said to have converted into a 
museum. A marble slab in the south gable bears the 
date of 1762; an addition of the same rough stone was 
built on the north side, but at a considerably lower level, 
in 1763, and the commemorative tablet in this instance 
bears the initials "J. M.," proving that the construction 
of the buildings of "Mill Grove" was due to the old 
miller, James Morgan. The interior, with its odd chim- 
ley-corner, low ceilings, bold fireplace and hand-wrought 
iron-work, bears witness to a time when honest, substan- 
tial construction and pride in workmanship received the 


first consideration. The present owner of "Mill Grove" 
has added attractive porches at the front and back. 
Ampelopsis climbs over the walls, which are shaded by 
handsome trees ; one of these, a fine black walnut at the 
easterly porch, which in August bore its great green 
balls in full clusters, must have been vigorous in Audu- 
bon's day, and possibly suggested the introduction of 
sprays of this full-fruited tree into some of his plates. 

While on a visit from Santo Domingo in 1789, con- 
cerned with his business interests, Captain Audubon 
spent some time in Philadelphia. On March 28, 1789, 
he purchased the "Mill Grove" property, at that time 
consisting of 284 1 /> acres of land, mansion house, mill, 
barns, furniture, tools and live stock, from Henry Au- 
gustin Prevost 8 and his wife, for the sum of 2,300 Eng- 
lish pounds, in gold and silver. He never lived there, 
and that he never intended to make it his immediate resi- 
dence is shown by the fact that in less than a fortnight 
he leased the farm in its entirety, as already noticed, to 
its former owner, and gave him a mortgage which stood 
for seventeen years. 9 

8 In 1761 James Morgan, the first miller and builder, conveyed one-half 
of the mill site of five acres to Roland Evans, who came into possession 
of the other half, with the adjoining farm, in 1771; the property was 
sold to Governor John Penn in 1776; it passed to Samuel C. Morris in 
1784, and to the Prevosts in 1786. 

9 The lease, which was drawn up in English, April 10, 1789, reads in 
part as follows: "This indenture, made on the tenth Day of April in 
the Year of our Lord, One thousand Seven hundred & Eighty nine, Be- 
tween John Audubon, of the Island of St. Domingo, Gentleman, now 
being in the City of Philadelphia, of the one party, and Augustine 
Prevost. . . ." The lease included the messuages, grist mills, saw mills, 
plantation and tract of land, which is described, tools, implements, stock, 
and furniture of the mills and farm, and was drawn for one year; it 
was signed in the presence of Miers Fisher, agent and attorney for Jean 

In the inventory were included one windmill, one pair of scales, with 
weights of 56, 28 and 7 pounds, "skreen," four bolting cloths, two hoisting- 
tubs, and one large screw and circle for raising the millstones. This lease 
was renewed in October, 1790, when Jean Audubon, who was then living 


Young Audubon lived at "Mill Grove" from the win- 
ter of 1804 to the spring of 180.5, and again for a few 
months in the summer of 1806, the year of its final sale 
by the Audubons and Roziers (see p. 148). In his 
journal of 1820 the naturalist wrote that his father had 
once the honor of being presented to General Washing- 
ton, and also to Major Crogan, of Kentucky, "who was 
particularly well acquainted with him." Jean Audubon 
left at "Mill Grove" oil portraits of himself and of 
Washington, both by an inferior American artist named 
Polk, 10 and it is probable that the one of himself was 
painted while he was at Philadelphia in the spring of 
1 789 ; the drawing is hard and flat, but the appearance 
of the face clearly indicates a man past middle life, and 
Captain Audubon had then reached his forty-fifth year. 

Young Audubon, we may be sure, lost no time in 
exploring the resources of this fine estate, where every 
bird, tree and flower came to him as a new discovery. 
In following the Perkioming above the mill dam he 
found a cave, carved out of the rocks, as he thought, by 
nature's own hand, which was a favorite haunt of the 
unpretentious but friendly pewees, the first American 
birds to attract his serious attention. So delighted was 
the youthful naturalist that he decided to make the pe- 
wees' cave his study; thither accordingly he brought his 
books, pencils and paper, and there made his first studies 
of American bird life, in the spring of 1804, in the third 

at Nantes, agreed to keep the house in good repair from that time onward. 
It was the Prevost mortgage that Miers Fisher paid but forgot to cancel 
(see Vol. I, p. 122) ; it was finally cleared up by Dacosta in October, 180G. 

Miers Fisher's Philadelphia residence, called "Ury," which Audubon 
often visited, was near Fox Chase, now in the Twenty-third Ward. See 
Witmer Stone, Cassinia, No. xvii (Philadelphia, 1913). 

10 For a photograph of this portrait of Lieutenant Audubon here repro- 
duced, I am indebted to Miss Maria R. Audubon; the originals of both 
portraits are now in possession of Audubon's granddaughter, Mrs. Morris 
F. Tyler. 


year of the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. It was 
early in the season when Audubon chanced upon this 
quiet retreat; the buds were swelling and maples had 
already burst into bloom, but snow still lingered in 
patches through the woods, and the air was piercing chill. 
The pewees were not yet at home, but one of their nests, 
fashioned of mud and finest moss, was fixed above the 
vaulted entrance; their coming was not long delayed, 
and Audubon, marking the very night or day's dawn 
when the first pewee arrived, saw them beginning to re- 
store their old home on the tenth of April. 

Strange to say, almost at that very time another pio- 
neer in American ornithology, Alexander Wilson, who 
will enter this history later, was teaching a rough coun- 
try school at Gray's Ferry, Kingsessing, also on the 
Schuylkill, and not over twenty-five miles away. 
Though Audubon's early studies were very desultory, 
both naturalists began their observations at about the 
same time, for on June 1, 1803, Wilson wrote to a 
friend that many pursuits had engaged his attention 
since leaving Scotland in 1794, and that then he was 
"about to make a collection of all our finest birds." 

It must be set down to Audubon's credit that in the 
little cave on the banks of the Perkioming, in April, 
1804, he made the first "banding" experiment on the 
young of an American wild bird. Little could he or any 
one else then have thought that one hundred years later 
a Bird Banding Society would be formed in America to 
repeat his test on a much wider scale, in order to gather 
exact data upon the movements of individuals of all 
migratory species in every part of the continent. After 
a few trials, "I fixed," said he, "a light silver thread on 
the leg of each, loose enough not to hurt the part, but 
so fastened that no exertions of theirs could remove it." 


In the following spring he had the satisfaction of catch- 
ing several pewees on their nests farther up the creek, 
and of "finding that two of them had a little ring on the 
leg," proving that the young of a migratory bird, steer- 
ing by the "compass" which is carried in its brain, did 
sometimes return to its home region, if not to the actual 
cradle or home site. 

Across the Philadelphia road, which today leads to 
the little railway station, and not more than a quarter 
of a mile from Audubon's farmhouse, stood another but 
more pretentious mansion of the Colonial era, called 
"Fatland Ford," pertaining to an extensive farm of 
that name which was noted for the fertility of its alluvial 
acres. A road from the present village of Audubon to 
the Schuylkill River and the ford runs through the "Fat- 
lands of Egypt," as the most productive parts of this 
old farm were then called. From the house could be seen 
the camping grounds of the Revolutionary soldiers, 
and James Vaux, its owner and builder, is said to have 
entertained General Howe at breakfast and to have 
shown him the room which General Washington, his 
guest of the previous day, had left just in time to avoid 
an introduction. 

Shortly before Audubon reached "Mill Grove," 
William Bakewell, an Englishman who had emigrated 
to New Haven in 1802, bought this farm, and with his 
wife and family took possession in the winter or spring 
of 1804. 11 Of the six Bakewell children, the two eldest, 
Lucy Green and Thomas Woodhouse, were but three 
years younger than the naturalist. The senior Bake- 
well, said Audubon, called at "Mill Grove" to pay his 
respects, but being then from home/and having brought 
with him a Frenchman's dislike for everything English, 

11 See Note, Vol. I, p. 99. 


he failed to respond. In the autumn, however, when 
grouse had become plentiful in the woods, a chance 
meeting brought them together, and young Audubon, 
who was a great admirer of his neighbor's expert marks- 
manship and well trained dogs, duly apologized for his 
neglect and forthwith paid a visit to "Fatland Ford." 

We shall let the naturalist tell in his own words of his 
first meeting with the young woman who afterwards 
became his wife: 

Well do I recollect the morning, and may it please God that 
I may never forget it, when for the first time I entered Mr. 
Bakewell's dwelling. It happened that he was absent from 
home, and I was shown into a parlor where only one young lady 
was snugly seated at her work by the fire. She rose on my 
entrance, offered me a seat, and assured me of the gratifica- 
tion her father would feel on his return, which, she added, would 
be in a few moments as she would despatch a servant for him. 
Other ruddy cheeks and bright eyes made their transient ap- 
pearance but, like spirits gay, soon vanished from my sight; 
and there I sat, my gaze riveted, as it were, on the young girl 
before me, who, half working, half talking, essayed to make 
the time pleasant to me. Oh ! may God bless her ! It was she, 
my dear sons, who afterward became my beloved wife, and your 

When Mr. Bake well returned, his daughter, Lucy, 
presided at the tea that was served, and Audubon re- 
ceived his first experience of hospitality in the English 
style, that was to be repeated in Britain at a later day 
on a more lavish scale. A hunting expedition was ar- 
ranged and the men started out at once. Festivities of 
various sorts, and, later, skating parties, became the 
order of the day, and it was not long before hospitali- 
ties were exchanged, when Audubon, having secured, 


with the aid of his tenant's son, as many partridge as 
possible, had the whole Bakewell family to dinner under 
his roof at "Mill Grove." 

Audubon's choice of a wife, thus quickly made, 
marked a turning-point in his career, and the curious 
fact remains that while he might have ransacked the 
country from Florida to Maine, as he afterwards re- 
peatedly did in his search after birds, and woefully blun- 
dered, the woman who by her sterling qualities of mind 
and heart was the one to recognize and call forth the 
best that was in him, should have been placed by circum- 
stances close by his door. Whatever the world has 
ever owed to Audubon is a debt due ta Lucy Bakewell, 
for every leaf of oak that is plaited for his brow, another 
of lavender should be twined for hers. 

During this gay but brief period of his life, Audubon 
has described himself as inordinately fond of dress, often 
cutting, as he said, an absurd figure by shooting in 
black satin breeches and silk stockings, and wearing the 
best shirts which the Philadelphia market could afford ; 
he took pride, he adds, in riding the best horse that he 
could procure, and in having his guns and fishing tackle 
of the most expensive and ornate description. "Not a 
ball," he said, "a skating match, a house or riding party 
took place without me." 

While freely acknowledging his follies at this time, 
he was able to say that he was addicted to no vices. His 
usual custom was to rise with the dawn, when his bird 
studies would begin, in the early hours which are best 
for this purpose. According to his own account, Audu- 
bon was extremely abstemious in his youth, for he de- 
clared that he had lived on fruits, vegetables and milk, 
with only an occasional indulgence in game and fish, and 
that he had not swallowed a single glass of wine or 

"mill grove" farmhouse, west front, facing perkioming creek. 


This and the above after photographs of August 16, 1914. 


spirits until his wedding day. This was the more re- 
markable in a youth coming from a country which flowed 
with good wine, where school children are still served 
with watered wine for lunch, and where the cooks, as 
Goldsmith believed, could concoct seven different dishes 
out of a nettle-top, and who, if they had enough 
butcher's meat (a want that has since been abundantly 
supplied), would be the best purveyors in the world. 
Audubon attributed his iron constitution to this simple 
regimen, which had been followed, he said, from his 
earliest recollection, though he admitted that while in 
France it was extremely annoying to all about him; 
for this reason he would not dine out when his peculiar 
habits were likely to be the subject of unpleasant com- 
ment. To follow this account of himself: 

Pies, puddings, eggs, milk and cream, was all I cared for 
in the way of food, and many a time I have robbed my ten- 
ant's wife, Mrs. Thomas, of the cream intended to make butter 
for the Philadelphia market. . . . All this time I was as fair 
and rosy as a girl, though as strong, indeed stronger than most 
young men . . . and why have I thought a thousand times, 
should I not have kept to that delicious mode of living, and why 
should not mankind in general be more abstemious than man- 
kind is ? 12 

William Gifford Bakewell, a younger brother of 
Lucy, has left this interesting record of a visit paid to 
"Mill Grove" in the summer of 1806: 

Audubon took me to his house where he and his companion, 
Rozier, resided, with Mrs. Thomas, for an attendant. On en- 
tering his room, I was astonished and delighted to find that it 
was turned into a museum. The walls were festooned with all 

12 For this and the preceding quotation, see Maria R. Audubon, Audubon 
and his Journals (Bibl. No. 86), vol. i, pp. 18 and 27. 


kinds of birds' eggs, carefully blown out and strung on a 
thread. The chimney-piece was covered with stuffed squirrels, 
racoons, and opossums ; and the shelves around were likewise 
crowded with specimens, among which were fishes, frogs, snakes, 
lizards, and other reptiles. Besides these stuffed varieties, 
many paintings were arrayed on the walls, chiefly of birds. 
He had great skill in stuffing and preserving animals of all 
sorts. He had also a trick in training dogs with great per- 
fection, of which art his famous dog, Zephyr, was a wonder- 
ful example. He was an admirable marksman, an expert swim- 
mer, a clever rider, possessed of great activity, prodigious 
strength, and was notable for the elegance of his figure and 
the beauty of his features, and he aided nature by a careful at- 
tendance to his dress. Besides other accomplishments he was 
musical, a good fencer, danced well, and had some acquain- 
tance with legerdemain tricks, worked in hair, and could plait 
willow baskets. 



Advent of a new agent at "Mill Grove" — Daeosta becomes guardian to 
young Audubon and exploits a neglected lead mine on the farm — 
Correspondence of Lieutenant Audubon and Daeosta — Quarrel with 
Daeosta — Audubon's return to France. 

If young Audubon was playing the role of a prodigal 
son at the "Mill Grove" farm, which in a certain sense 
was doubtless true, an episode soon occurred which put 
a check to his carefree existence. Not long after the 
naturalist had arrived, William Thomas, the tenant, 
called his attention to the lead-ore deposits, which he 
thought had been discovered by a Mr. Gilpin in 1791, 
and the news of this prospect was promptly communi- 
cated to the elder Audubon in France. Though the 
presence of this mineral at "Mill Grove" had been 
known, as we have seen, at a much earlier day, its redis- 
covery excited great interest, and may have been a factor 
of influence in the steps which were soon to be taken. It 
should be noticed, however, that before May, 1803, a 
young Frenchman from Nantes, bearing the Portuguese 
name of Francis Daeosta, had preceded young Audubon 
to "Mill Grove," and apparently had acquired at that 
time a certain interest in the farm. 1 Daeosta soon suc- 

1 In Dacosta's final statement of his account, which was disputed, car- 
ried into court, and eventually settled by arbitration at Philadelphia, on 
August 1, 1807, these items occur: "Omitted, $300.00, paid by Francis 
Daeosta to Miers Fisher, on May 24, 1803;" and "Ditto $176.67, the pro- 
portion of Francis Daeosta in the rent of the first year, which has not 
been paid to him." (See Appendix I, Document 11a; MSS. in possession 
of Mr. Welton A. Rozier.) 



ceeded Miers Fisher as Jean Audubon's agent, and 
becoming enthusiastic over the lead mine, was anxious to 
exploit it. Acting also upon the senior Audubon's re- 
quest, he assumed a sort of guardianship over the son. 
Dacosta began to dig for ore in the following year. 
News of his enterprise spread rapidly, and this long 
neglected mine was heralded in the newspapers as "one 
of the first discoveries yet made in the United States." 2 
On December 15, 1804, Dacosta purchased a one-half 
undivided interest in "Mill Grove," 3 giving, as we be- 
lieve, a mortgage, and hoping to pay for his share out 
of the profits of the lead mine. Thereafter for about 
two years he continued to conduct the farm and develop 
the mine, upon the basis of a one-half interest, in addi- 

It seems probable that Dacosta was sent to this country by Lieutenant 
Audubon to act as his agent for the disposition of "Mill Grove,'' and to 
succeed Miers Fisher in the conduct of his business affairs. Interest in 
the neglected and forgotten mine may have diverted them from their 
original plans. 

2 The following notice, copied from Relf's Gazette, appeared in the 
New York Herald for Saturday, November 17, 1804: 

"The lead mine discovered on Perkiomen creek, in Montgomery county, 
Pennsylvania, the property of Francis Dacosta, has been lately opened, and 
attended with great success. The vein proves to be a regular one, and 
of long continuance. Its course is N.N.E.; its direction is nearly per- 
pendicular, and its thickness from one foot to 15 inches. Two tons of 
that beautiful ore were raised in a few hours, and one ton more at 
least was left in the bottom on the pit, which is yet but nine feet deep. 
From the situation of this mine, its nearness to navigation and market, 
its very commanding height, its richness in metal, and the large scale it 
forms on; it is thought by judges to be one of the first discoveries yet 
made in the U. S. 

"From the analysis made of 100 parts, it contains: 

Oxyd of lead 85 

Oxyd of iron 1 

Sulphuric acid 13 

Water 1 

"The lead being coupelled, has proved to contain 2y 2 oz. fine silver to 

100, which is nearly 3 dollars worth of that metal." 

3 For the sum of 31,000 francs, cr $6,200, a slight advance on the cost 

to Jean Audubon, when he had taken over the farm fifteen years before 

(see Vol. I, p. 105). 


tion to a small salary. 4 In case the mine proved a suc- 
cess, it was understood that young Audubon was to 
be taken into the business and thus obtain a means of 

Dacosta was at first averse to forming a company, but 
the Quaker tenant, William Thomas, who caught the 
fever, and who was thought to possess more knowledge 
of the mine than he was ready to divulge, seems to 
have been taken conditionally into the partnership. Da- 
costa made full reports of his progress to the old sailor 
at Coueron, who came regularly to Nantes to send back 
to America his well considered answers and candid ad- 
vice. Dacosta also called persistently for money, but 
as Lieutenant Audubon was unable to meet these de- 
mands, he applied to his friend Francois Rozier, a 
wealthy merchant at Nantes, to supply the needed capi- 
tal. Rozier invested 16,000 francs, and to complicate 
matters took a mortgage upon one-half of the value of 
"Mill Grove," in which the earlier proprietor, John 
Augustin Prevost, as well as Francis Dacosta, was also 
interested. Jean Audubon, Dacosta and Rozier thus 
became partners in an enterprise which seems to have 
swallowed up all of the money which was advanced and 
never to have made any substantial returns. 

The eventual failure of the lead mine must be at- 
tributed in part to the high cost of materials, as Avell 
as to the expense involved in uncovering the ore, a 
difficulty which all later exploiters seem to have found 
insuperable. Dacosta also discovered that the manage- 

4 The following item appears in Daeosta's final account: "To com- 
pensation claimed by Francis Dacosta for making up half of his expenses, 
in managing the mining works, the mill-repairs, and taking up the forma- 
tion of a company during two years of constant cares, troubles, and 
loss of time, at 300 dollars a yeir — $C00 00." (From statement of dis- 
puted claim; see Note, Vol. I, p. 1G8.) 


merit of his youthful charge was quite as difficult as 
making a success of the mine. His grievances on this 
score were duly reported at Coueron, and if he was 
really trying to carry out the instructions which came 
from France, it was perhaps no wonder that he received 
the undisguised contempt of his rebellious pupil. How 
just the naturalist's charges against his hated tutor 
may have been, will be considered in the sequel, but 
Lieutenant Audubon's letters, 5 to be given presently at 
length, clearly show that in spite of the strained rela- 
tions which later ensued, Dacosta continued to enjoy his 
confidence for some time after young Audubon's return 
to France in 1805. The more serious troubles that fol- 
lowed seem to have arisen from entanglements into 
which all were later drawn. 

In the first two letters to be given, but the third and 
fourth of the series, Jean Audubon refers particularly 
to "Mill Grove" and the prospective mine, and to the 
proposed marriage of his son to Lucy Bakewell, con- 
cerning which he was reluctant to give his consent for 
reasons which he specifies at length; his sanction was 
in fact withheld until the young man was on the road to 
self-support two years later. 

Jean Audubon to Francis Dacosta 

[Nantes, 1804-5] 

I told you to sell to W. Thomas the portion on the other 
side . . . but your letter of the 27th of September with that 

5 For copies of a part of the Audubon-Dacosta correspondence, which 
is perhaps half of what exists but all that it was possible to obtain, I 
am indebted to Monsieur Lavigne. The first letter, the present copy of 
which is incomplete, was evidently written in the winter of 1804-5. 
Lieutenant Audubon, who at this time was sixty-one years old, was living 
at Coueron, but came to Nantes to conduct his correspondence. All 
the letters were carefully transcribed in a separate copybook, and are 
here translated as literally as possible from the French. 


of Mr. Miers Fisher, who is not in favor of it, has made me 
change my mind in the meantime. If your plan succeeds, as I 
wish it may, this part of the farm would become almost in- 
dispensable for exploitation [of the mine]. Moreover, has not 
Mr. W. Thomas intentions, which we do not know? Might it 
not be possible that in this very same part he had made more 
valuable discoveries than those which he has shown us? In 
all these matters, however, I rely entirely on the wisdom of 
Mr. Miers Fisher and of yourself, and I thank you for your 
willingness to remain in charge of my affairs, 6 by accepting 
anew the power of attorney, which he sends me together with 
the indenture to be signed by my wife and by myself in presence 
of witnesses. But you ask that this should be done before the 
mayor of Nantes, while we have been living, since you departed, 
in the commune of Coueron; accordingly this will be taken be- 
fore the mayor of that commune, and legalized by a prefect of 
the department. That, I believe, will fulfil the same obliga- 
tions, for should it be necessary for my wife to come to Nantes 
in the weather that we are constantly having it might cause a 
delay that would be prejudicial to us. Remember, my dear 
Sir, I expect that if your plan succeeds, my son will find a 
place in the works, which will enable him to provide for himself, 
in order to spare me from expenses that I can, with difficulty, 
support. Your first letters have almost persuaded me that this 
so-called mine was of little or no account, but the arrange- 
ment that you have made with W. Thomas is so important that 
I do not doubt you made certain of the value of the object be- 
fore deciding to grant him a recompense, which was to be 
only in the thing itself. In this work we should then be making 
a very great sacrifice, and it would be a loss. If, however, 
you propose to forestall the payment of the sums that you owe, 
I accept [the proposition] to be paid in Philadelphia; I will 
reflect upon it, and will look into it. If I can arrange matters 
for this [plan] with Mr. Dupuir, my next will be more explicit 

" That is, after having become a part owner of the "Mill Grove" 


upon this subject. My son speaks to me about his marriage. 
If you would have the kindness to inform me about his in- 
tended, as well as about her parents, their manners, their con- 
duct, their means, and why they are in that country, whether 
it was in consequence of misfortune that they left Europe, 
you will be doing me a signal service, and I beg you, moreover, 
to oppose this marriage until I may give my consent to it. 
Tell these good people that my son is not at all rich, and that 
I can give him nothing if he marries in this condition. 

Jean Audubon to Francis Dacosta 

Nantes, le 19 ventose, an IS 9 March, 1805 
Mr. Dacosta, Philadelphia : 

I have received at this very moment your duplicate of the 
twelfth of November, and your letter of December fifth, which is 
not so favorable for several reasons as the one preceding it, yet 
this impels us to hope that your last tunnel will not be a de- 
serter, and that the oxides of iron which are present will not 
vanish upon further digging; this, at least, is my hope. You do 
well to make every effort to obtain associates. If this does not 
succeed, and if you should wish to work for our interests, I 
should always approve of everything that you do, since you 
have my confidence. In this case I believe . . . that you should 
make the most urgent repairs, above all at the principal house, 
before going there to live. As to Mr. W. Thomas, you do 
well to keep him for yourself for every reason that you give 
me, and I believe that he will not be stubborn about withdrawing 
until he has, or has not, deserved his reward. 

I am [vexed] Sir; one cannot be more vexed at the fact that 
you should have reason to complain about the conduct of my 
son, for the whole thing, when well considered, is due only to 
bad advice, and lack of experience ; they have goaded his self- 
esteem, and perhaps he has been immature enough to boast in 
the house to which he goes, that this plantation should fall to 
him, to him alone. You have every means to destroy this pre- 
sumption; it is known at Philadelphia that you have the same 


rights as I have, and that you are doing nothing but for our 
mutual advantage. I am writing to him on this subject, for 
he does not speak of it to me, and I am giving him the rebuke 
that his indiscretion deserves. Read this letter, and have the 
kindness to seal it before delivering it to him. You tell me 
that I can refer, in regard to his conduct, to the report that 
Mr. Miers Fisher has given of it in his long letter of the month 
of September; that, unhappily, I have not received, for Mr. 
Fisher tells me nothing about him, neither what is good nor 
bad. As to going to that country, this seems well nigh im- 
possible ; to recall my son is not easier ; the reasons which made 
me send him out [there] still remain. Only an instant is needed 
to make him change from bad to good ; his extreme youth and 
his petulance are his only faults, and if you have the goodness 
to give him the indispensable, he will soon feel the necessity of 
making friends with you, and he can be of great service if you 
use him for your own benefit. 

It is necessary then, my dear Sir, that we endeavor, by 
gentleness, to reclaim him to his duty. If you are indulgent 
with him, it will be I who should be under every obligation to 
you. I hoj^e that the enclosed letter will work a change with 
him. This is my only son, my heir, and I am old. When Mr. 
Miers Fisher shall have shown my letter to the would-be father- 
in-law, he will see that he is mistaken in his calculation upon 
the assumed marriage of his daughter, for if it should take 
place without my consent, all help on my part would cease 
from that instant ; this, if you will have the kindness, is what 
you may say to the would-be father-in-law, that I do not wish 
my son to marry so young. 

Your letters of the 28th of October and the 12th of No- 
vember are in the country. 7 I cannot reply categorically upon 
their contents ; I will examine them, and will tell you in my 
next what I think about them. Your family, which I have 
seen, is well. Our ladies thank you for your kind remembrance. 
I am. . . . 

7 That is, at Coueron. 


When the preceding letter was written young Audu- 
bon was on his way to France, to protest, as he said, 
against Dacosta's treatment of him. At the date of the 
letter which follows, he was at Coueron, hunting birds 
with Dr. d'Orbigny. 

Jean Audubon to Francis Dacosta 

Nantes, 14 June, 1805 
To Mr. Dacosta, Philadelphia : 

I have received, at this very moment, your letter of the 
8th of April. I have replied to your preceding by duplicate. 
Like yourself I am greatly astonished that you should not have 
received the contracts which I forwarded to you at once. I 
have reserved copies of these papers, which I have literally 

If I had the least idea that they would not reach you, and 
that an accident had befallen the ship, I should forward them 
in duplicate, but as this boat, at the time of its departure, was 
long delayed by the embargoes as well as by bad weather, I 
am persuaded that this is the sole cause, and that they will 
have reached you since. 

You are about to appeal to the supreme court to prove 
your ownership; is there a living being who can contest it? 
If our deeds, granted in France, have not their full force in 
that country, nothing can annul them for us who are French. 
You shall do in this matter what you like; the greatest objec- 
tion is this, that it stops your operations ; but who is to blame? 
It is due to distance, and not to any negligence. 

You say that you will do nothing until you have these 
documents ; if your intention is to work for our benefit, as you 
say in your preceding, a company still being disagreeable [to 
you], that ought not to stop you ; you have every power, [and] 
time lost is irreparable. I am much annoyed at the delay that 
this Mr. Miers Fisher causes you ; as you say, he is an honest 
man, but negligent, and this in consequence of his age, and 
absorption in his great business. 


We now return to Mr. David Ross, 8 who in his letter tells 
a pack of lies. At the close of 1789 I presented myself at his 
house with the power of attorney of Mr. Formon, 9 when we 
settled the business of the "Count of Artois," and the "An- 
nette." 10 There never has been, as he said, any dissolution of 
the partnership between Mr. Formon and myself. I settled the 
accounts at that time both with him and with Samuel Plais- 
ance concerning these vessels, with the exception of a residue 
of three thousand francs which are due me from Mr. Edward, 
their associate, who died at London. When I asked him for 
his certificates, he gave me for excuse that they were at the 
iron factory above Richmond, and that he had given Mr. For- 
mon a private obligation that he would be very glad to have 
an exchange for the certificates. This affair has rested there 
ever since, and according to his letter Mr. Formon has taken 
out seven thousand, four hundred dollars, which exceeds his 
share by 1,650 dollars. If the estate of Mr. Formon is not 
without resources, it is to his heirs that you must apply for 
this overdraft, and get from Mr. David Ross all that you can, 
for with such people one cannot rely upon getting anything 
except with iron hooks. 

The son-in-law of Mr. Formon doubtless will have found 
among his papers all that constitutes the legal basis of my 
portion; his certificates, his letter of attorney prove it, and 
this is a title, and I believe that I have proofs by accounts 
current. I salute you. 

8 This name appears as "Rost" in all the letters. 

9 Member of the firm of Audubon, Lacroix, Formon & Jacques, en- 
gaged in the Santo Domingo trade (see Chapter II, p. 33). In these 
letters the name usually appears as "Formont." 

10 Vessels in which Jean Audubon was personally interested, and upon 
which he endeavored in vain to collect the money and interest due him 
(see Vol. I, p. 34). In a document in English, dated [Les Cayes] April 9, 
1782, concerning the Annette, of which Jean Audubon was captain and 
part owner, and signed by him and David Ross & Company, it is stated 
this vessel was bound for Nantes with a cargo of tobacco, in the purchase 
and sale of which Captain Audubon was under orders of Mr. Ezekiel Ed- 
wards of Nantes. 


Jean Audubon to Francis Dacosta 

Nantes, 22 June, 1805 
To Mr. Dacosta: 

I have just received your letter of April 23, and hasten to 
reply to it, in order to prove to you that not one of yours 
has been neglected, which could be readily seen by my copy- 
book. I am not surprised that at this time you have not re- 
ceived your papers, because they cannot have left before the 
10th or 15th of last March, having been held up by the em- 
bargoes and the bad weather, as you will see by the date of 
the letters which accompany them. 

They were entrusted to the son-in-law of Mr. Paulin, and 
if the ship arrives safely as I trust it will, you have now re- 
ceived them. 

What negligence on the part of Mr. Miers Fisher! In 
truth it is unpardonable, to let the mortgages stand after 
having paid them! 11 Will you then, I pray, clear this up for 
the sake of our mutual peace of mind? You speak of repairs 
to the house, 12 it needs a complete cover; would it not be better 
for me to send some slate from here? This would perhaps be 
less expensive, and well nigh everlasting. Should you consider 
it advisable I will send you some at once. 

I beg you not to neglect the affair of David Ross ; if you 
can collect this sum, you will use it for our needs. I am 
annoyed that all these mishaps prevent you from working; 13 
be well persuaded that it is no fault of mine, and that I am 
guilty of no negligence. 

You speak of my going to that country ; if such had been 
my intention I should have done it long ago. I am still 

II This was probably the mortgage which Jean Audubon gave to 
Prevost when "Mill Grove" was purchased in 1789, for in Dacosta's final 
account for 1806-1807 this item occurs under October 15, 1806: "To the 
recorder in Norristown for entering satisfaction of John Audubon mortgage 
to John Augustin Prevost . . . $2.83." 

12 The principal house at "Mill Grove," which Dacosta was preparing 
to occupy. 

13 Owing to the delay in receiving his legal papers from France, Dacosta 
had threatened to carry his case to the courts, and had stopped work 
at the mine. 


troubled with an inflammation of the lungs ; and one ought not 
to be ill in a foreign country, where he does not receive the care 
that he enjoys in his own home. You ask me to bring you 
money. . . . You know better than anyone else what was my 
[financial] position when I sold to you; by that alone you must 
know how difficult this would be for me. It is necessary to man- 
age so that our object suffices us [or so that the mine pays its 
way], and if we cannot work on a grand scale, we must needs 
do the best with our affairs on a lower plane; for that I de- 
pend on you. I salute you. 

P. S. When you shall have my papers from Mr. Miers Fisher, 
you will find a promissory note of Mr. Samuel Plaisance of 
Richmond, for the business of the widow Ross. If there 
were justice there this sum would be paid to me with the 

The foregoing letters show that Dacosta had been 
asked to oppose the proposed marriage of the younger 
Audubon to Lucy Bakewell until consent should be 
given ; that he was calling for more money to exploit the 
lead mine and was urging Lieutenant Audubon to come 
to America; and that their relations were becoming 
strained, Dacosta, to prove his title to a one-half inter- 
est in the mine and farm, having threatened to take 
his case to the courts. 

This mining experiment was spread over many years. 
Before turning to the sequel (see Chapter XI), let us 
glance at the picture which the naturalist has left of his 
unsympathetic tutor. "Dacosta," he said, "was intend- 
ed to teach me mineralogy and mining engineering, but 
in fact" he "knew nothing of either; besides which he 
was a covetous wretch, who did all he could to ruin 
my father, and indeed swindled us both to a large 
amount. I had to go to France to expose him to my 


father to get rid of him, which I fortunately accom- 
plished at sight of my kind parent. A greater scoundrel 
than Dacosta never probably existed, but peace be with 
his soul." In one respect only, said Audubon, did he 
receive any sympathy from his guardian: Dacosta com- 
mended his drawings of birds. "One morning," Audu- 
bon relates, "when I was drawing a figure of the Ardea 
herodias [the great blue heron] , he assured me that the 
time might come when I should be a great American nat- 
uralist"; however curious it might appear, he adds, that 
praise "from the lips of such a man should affect me, I 
assure you that they had great weight with me and I felt 
a certain degree of pride in these words even then." 

To follow Audubon's story further, not only did Da- 
costa take control of his finances, but he interfered with 
his personal liberty, first by objecting to his proposed 
marriage to Lucy Bakewell, and then by cutting off his 
stipend when he rebelled. 14 Audubon, being thorough- 
ly aroused, determined to return to France and lay 
the case before his father in person. With this end in 
view he walked to Philadelphia, whither Dacosta had 
gone, to demand the money necessary to take him to 
Nantes. He was given, as he says, what purported to 
be a letter of credit to a Mr. Kauman, an agent and 
banker in New York. Returning with his letter to 
"Mill Grove," he then started on foot for New York, 
where he arrived on the evening of the third day. While 
there he stayed at the house of Mrs. Palmer, 15 "a lady of 

14 In the light of the preceding letters, Dacosta would appear in these 
respects to have been only attempting to carry out his instructions. 

"Probably Sarah White Palmer, Benjamin Bakewell's sister-in-law, 
and widow of the Rev. John Palmer, who at one time was associated 
with Joseph Priestley in editing the Theological Repository, an organ of 
the Unitarians. Her son-in-law, Thomas W. Pears, was later a partner in 
Audubon's business ventures at Henderson, Kentucky. Her grave is in 
the Bakewell burying plot at "Fatland Ford." 


excellent qualities," who received him most kindly. Au- 
dubon called promptly upon Benjamin Bakewell, for 
whom he was the bearer of a letter from his brother, Wil- 
liam Bakewell, of "Fatland Ford." Instead of an order 
for money, Kauman's letter, he said, contained only the 
advice that its bearer be "arrested and shipped to Can- 
ton." Perplexed and bewildered beyond endurance, 
Audubon said that for the first time he felt the call of 
murder in his blood, and his outraged feelings were not 
assuaged until his landlady, to whom he had opened his 
heart, and Mr. Bakewell, had come to his aid. Having 
secured from this gentleman the necessary funds, he 
bought a passage in the ship Hope, which was then 
about to sail direct for Nantes. 

Thanks to an old cash account of William Bakewell, 
we can follow Audubon's movements at this time fairly 
closely. This record 16 extends from January 4, 1805, to 
April 9, 1810, during which time he advanced money to 
his future son-in-law and received credits due him from 
various sources. He did the same for the young part- 
ners when an association in business had been formed 
between Audubon and Rozier, and acted as their agent 
or attorney after the sale of their farm and their settle- 
ment in the West; as will be seen he aided Audubon 
very substantially later when money was needed at 
Louisville and for the more ambitious projects at Hen- 
derson, in which his son was also interested. This par- 
ticular record shows that he supplied Audubon with 
small sums of money on January 4 and 12, 1805, just 
before his departure from "Mill Grove," and that on the 
eighteenth of the same month he paid his brother, Ben- 
jamin Bakewell of New York, $150 on the young man's 
account. This was undoubtedly the passage money 

16 See Appendix I, Document No. 7. 


which Audubon had borrowed from his friend, and as 
the ship was then ready to sail, the date of his voyage 
on the Hope is very closely fixed. 

After his vessel had passed Sandy Hook and was 
opposite New Bedford, the captain, in order, as he 
averred, to make necessary repairs, ran her into that 
port, where they passed a week. This was thought to 
be only a ruse on the captain's part to gain time, for, 
having recently married, he wanted a holiday on shore ; 
accordingly he had ordered a few holes bored below 
the waterline in the bows of his ship. When they finally 
put to sea in earnest, they passed "through an im- 
mensity of dead fish floating on the surface of the wa- 
ter," a remark which now recalls stories of the famous 
tilefish, once thought to be extinct, which have been 
found floating dead in vast numbers in that part of the 
Atlantic. After nineteen days out the Hope entered 
the Loire and anchored at Paimbceuf, the lower harbor 
of Nantes; this was in February, and not far from the 
eighteenth of that month. 



Life at Coueron — Friendship of D'Orbigny — Drawings of French birds — ■ 
D'Orbigny's troubles — Marriage of Rosa Audubon — The Du Puigau- 
deaus — Partnership with Ferdinand Rozier — Their Articles of Asso- 
ciation — They sail from Nantes, are overhauled by British privateers, 
but land safely at New York— Settle at "Mill Grove." 

Reaching his home at Coueron in the spring of 
1805, Audubon took his parents completely by surprise. 
He found his father, then in his sixty-first year, still 
"hale and hearty," and his "cliere maman as fair and 
good as ever." It was a time of momentous events in 
France; Napoleon had placed the crown upon his head 
but a few months before; defeat and victory followed 
in rapid succession. But this did not prevent the young 
naturalist from spending a year in "the lap of comfort" 
at Nantes and in the quiet villa of "La Gerbetiere," 
where as usual he hunted birds and collected objects of 
natural history of every sort. 

At this time also Audubon formed a friendship with 
a young man after his own heart, Dr. Charles Marie 
d'Orbigny, who "with his young wife and infant-son" 
was then living near his home. "The doctor," he said, 
"was a good fisherman, a good hunter, and fond of all 
objects in nature. Together we searched the woods, 
the fields and the banks of the Loire, procuring every 
bird we could, and I made drawings of every one of 
them — very bad, to be sure, but still they were of 
assistance to me." * 

n Maria R. Audubon, Audubon and his Journals (Bibl. No. 86), vol. i, 
p. 39. 



Charles d'Orbigny, who was Audubon's most inti- 
mate early friend and in all probability his father in 
natural history, was always spoken of in terms of great 
affection. While at Paris in October, 1829, Audubon 
learned from the naturalist Lesson that D'Orbigny was 
then in charge of the museum at La Rochelle and that 
"his son, Charles, then twenty-one," whom "he had held 
in his arms many times," was in the city; on October 8 
he wrote in his journal: "this morning I had great 
pleasure in meeting my godson, Charles d'Orbigny. 
Oh! what past times were brought to my mind." 

In later life the elder D'Orbigny seems to have fallen 
on evil times. He appeared as a debtor to Lieutenant 
Audubon's estate, and the cordial relations that had 
long existed between the two families were broken ; this 
is shown only too plainly by the following sharp letter 3 
written by Gabriel du Puigaudeau and addressed to the 
doctor, on August 3, 1819, when the family had become 
reduced in means: 

Gabriel du Puigaudeau to Charles M. d'Orbigny 

Your letter of the twenty-fifth of January reached me in 
due time. I am grieved to see that you are anno yed because 

2 Dr d'Orbigny had three sons, all of whom were born in Coueron: 
Alcide Charles Victor in 1802, Gaston Edouard in 1805, and Charles in 
1806: the youngest and eldest became distinguished naturalists bo tar 
as known, Audubon was godfather only to the second, Gaston Edouard, 
who according to the records of the Catholic church at Coueron was 
born on the 3d day of the present [month], the issue of the legitimate 
marriage of Mr. Charles Marie d'Orbigny, doctor of medicine, and of 
Anna Pepart," was christened on August 20, 1805, in the presence of the 
godfather, John James Audubon, the godmother, Rosa Audubon, the 
father and mother, together with the "undersigned" (Extracted by Monsieur 
Lavigne). D'Orbigny appears as a witness to the powers of attorney 
which Jean Audubon and his wife issued jointly to their son and to 
Ferdinand Rozier at Coueron in 1805 (see Appendix I, Document No. 8) 
and on November 20, 1806 (see Vol. I, p. 153). 

"For copies of this and the following letters, which are here trans- 
lated from the French, I am indebted to Monsieur Lavigne. 

^/&z/~~^U. x A-gp. 

s<f f 3 S P 



«*C«-,?&j, _ 




NO. 50. NEAR NANTZ, AUGUST, 1S05. J. L. F. A." 

Published by courtesy of Mr. Joseph Y. Jeanes. 


I addressed you through the voice of the mayor of the town 
in which you live, since I had not the honor of knowing the 
mayor any more than the enmity which may exist between you ; 
I was in duty bound to find out where you were ; I heard it said 
that Esnaudes was your home and I wrote you more than a 
year ago ; when I received no reply, the supposition was that 
I must have been misinformed. I wrote to the mayor of 
Esnaudes and he had the kindness to reply that you were prac- 
ticing in his commune. I am writing to you under this cover, 
persuaded that my last will not have the same fate as my first, 
which surely had not reached you. 

As to the claim that Madame Audubon has upon you, the 
different credits which you mention are assuredly more than 
enough to pay the amount, but with forfeitures ; unfortunately 
there are many creditors who do nothing but this ; Madame 
Audubon gets nothing, and finds herself in straightened cir- 
cumstances, although her hands are full of notes. You say 
that your creditors can claim only thirty-five hundred francs. 
I have certain knowledge to the contrary, since already the 
mortgages on your house reach nearly three thousand francs, 
while Madame Audubon is your creditor in the sum of at least 
sixteen hundred francs. I wish in business to be frank, and 
to have others so with me. You say that you owe rather those 
who have supplied you with food ; you are unwilling then to 
recall that the sums that the late Mr. Audubon lent you re- 
peatedly were for the same purpose. You tell us to be patient, 
and who have been more patient than we for the past four 
years ? You speak of reduction of interest ; indeed it is im- 
possible that you should have thought of this, or that we should 
be content with what you should be so good as to give us, and 
that when you deem it convenient, without our being able to 
file a protest. I leave you to reflect on what we must think of 
this matter, and I beg you to see in my manner of writing to 
you the interpretation that I have given to what you write 

Madame Audubon does not think that she should exact at 
once the capital in addition to the interest, but she charges 


me to say to you that, having a right at least to the interest 
accrued, she begs you to have that money paid to her with the 
least possible delay. 

The following letter concerning D'Orbigny's affairs 
was also written by Gabriel du Puigaudeau to J. Cornet 
of Esnaudes, on June 26, 1819: 

Gabriel du Puigaudeau to J. Cornet 

Your honored [letter] of the sixteenth was duly received. 
It is impossible to be more grateful to you than I am for the 
information that you have been kind enough to give me about 
Mile. Bouffard 4 as well as about M. Delouche. I will use it to 
my profit. As to the question that you put to me concerning 
M. d'Orbigny, I have the honor to tell you that he has lived 
in the commune of Vue in this department, and was highly 
esteemed and regretted when he left to come here. He lived 
here fifteen years without any one having cause to reproach 
him in any way. He has always been very well regarded and 
received by the best society here, and he carried from Vue the 
regrets of all. He left us to take part in a manufactory of 
soda, established at Noismoutiers, in the department of La 

I have had no news of him since. As to his pecuniary re- 
sources, I know him to have but one. His wife had a house, 
at Paimboeuf in this department, which was sold three years 
ago to satisfy the holders of mortgages. This is all that I can 
tell you about them; he owes my mother-in-law about fifteen 
hundred francs (money received at different times from my 
late father-in-law), for which we have his notes, but God only 
knows when we shall be paid. 

As early as the autumn of 1805, if not before, plans 
were laid for getting young Audubon again safely out 
of France, for fear, no doubt, that the remorseless con- 

4 A daughter of Catharine Bouffard, regarding whom see Vol. I, p. 56. 


scription officers of Napoleon would send him to the 
war if he remained. At that time Lieutenant Audubon 
and his wife issued jointly to their son and to Ferdinand 
Rozier a power of attorney for the conduct of their 
business affairs in America. Parts only of this punc- 
tilious document, which was written in French, have 
been preserved, 5 and these through the translation of a 
"notary public and sworn interpreter of foreign lan- 
guages for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, resi- 
dent in Philadelphia." The names of the grantors, who 
signed this letter on October 21, 1805, were attested 
under the signature and seal of the mayor of Coueron; 
this official upon the same day declared that, in con- 
formity with the rigorous requirements of the laws of 
the State of Pennsylvania, since "no other act, not even 
a notarial instrument, can in any manner supply the 
same," he had examined Anne Moynet Audubon apart, 
when she admitted that she perfectly understood the 
nature of the act, which she had "signed, sealed, and 
delivered of her own free will and accord, without being 
compelled thereto by her husband, either by threats, or 
by any other means of compulsion whatsoever." The 
mayor's signature was authenticated three days later 
by the subprefect of Savenay, and the formality was 
finally closed by the attestation of his signature by the 
prefect, on the 27th of November. 

It was during this last visit to his home in France 
that Audubon's sister, Rosa, 6 was married to Gabriel 

5 See Appendix I, Document No. 8. 

6 The civil ceremony of Rosa Audubon's marriage was performed 
at the mayor's office in Coueron, on December 16, 1805 (le 26 frimaire, an 
14), when the bride was in her eighteenth year; the contract had been 
drawn on the 12th day of that month (le 22 frimaire, an 14) by notary 
Martin Daviais, who was mayor of Coueron in the following year, and the 
religious ceremony was conducted by the Bishop of Nantes. "The fol- 
lowing have assisted," so reads in translation the Coueron record, "at 


Loyen du Puigaudeau, who was not, however, as the 
naturalist has stated, either "the son of a fallen noble- 
man" or his father's "secretary." Du Puigaudeau came 
from a family of merchants in easy circumstances, and 
for a long time lived the life of a country gentleman 
of leisure — for a period at Port Launay, below Coueron, 
and later, after Lieutenant Audubon's death, at his own 
villa, "Les Tourterelles," in that commune, not far from 
"La Gerbetiere." His father, though of a rich family, 
was not a "gentleman," that is, a member of the aris- 
tocracy, as the term was then used in France. Du 
Puigaudeau was without any settled business, but his 
revenues, upon which he depended, failed not long after 
the death of his father-in-law. He and young Audubon 
appear to have been good friends for many years, and 
after the latter's return to America they corresponded 
to as late as 1820, when for some reason their relations 
were broken. 

In the spring of 1806 Lieutenant Audubon arranged 
a business partnership between his son and Ferdinand 
Rozier, to endure for nine years, and also secured pass- 
ports for both to enable them to emigrate immediately 
to the United States. To the same hand can also be 
traced their "Articles of Association," which were 
drawn with the utmost care and designed to govern 
them in all their future business relations in the New 
World: these were signed by "Jean Audubon," and 
"Ferdinand Rozier," at Nantes, on March 23, 1806. 
Moreover, eight days before they embarked, a second 
and more elaborate letter of attorney was issued to 

the marriage, aforesaid, on the side of the groom, M. Andre Loyen du 
Puigaudeau, his brother, and M. Honore Francois Guiraud, his brother- 
in-law; by the side of the bride, her father, and M. Jean Audubon, her 
brother, [and these have] undersigned, together with the bridegroom." 
Audubon's signature reads "J. L. J. Audubon." 


them jointly by the Lieutenant, his wife, and, in this 
instance, the aged father of Ferdinand, under date of 
April 4, 1806. 7 According to the terms of this admira- 
bly executed paper the partners were entitled to conduct 
all the affairs of the grantors in reference to their prop- 
erty in the United States to the best of their judgment 
and ability; to carry on the "Mill Grove" farm, to the 
extent of their part ownership in the estate, or to dis- 
pose of this interest; "to exploit or cause to be exploited 
the mine recently discovered on the said farm, to con- 
sult in every important matter Mr. Miers Fisher, mer- 
chant of Philadelphia, — as a common friend and good 
counsellor, to keep all necessary books and registers, 
and at the end of each year, or sooner, to strike a bal- 
ance of the receipts and expenses of the said farm and 
the exploitation of the mine, should there be reason 
for it." 

To secure at this time the necessary passports for 
their young men no doubt taxed all the resources of 
the elder Audubon; Rozier's, said the naturalist, was 
written in Dutch, of which he did not understand a 
single word, while his own letter stated that he was born 
in New Orleans. These subterfuges worked so well 
that the inspection officer, after reading Audubon's pa- 
per, promptly offered him his congratulations, adding 

7 For the full text of these two documents, which are so interest- 
ing for our story, see Appendix I, Documents Nos. 9 and 10; and for 
translations, Documents Nos. 9a and 10a. For the privilege of examining 
and reproducing the first of these papers I am indebted to Mr. Charles A. 
Rozier, of St. Louis, and for the second, as well as the power of attorney 
of 1805 (see Document No. 8), referred to earlier, to Mr. Tom J. Rozier, 
of Sainte Genevieve, Missouri. In the case of this second warrant it will be 
noticed that the grantors signed only the minute which was filed with the 
notaries, who, with the judge of the Court of the First Instance, affixed 
their names to the document itself. No better illustration could be given 
of the dignity which the French attach to the office of notary, to the honored 
incumbents of which their private affairs are unreservedly entrusted, than 
this elaborate judicial document. 


that he would be only too glad to leave his unhappy 
country under as favorable conditions. Audubon and 
Rozier sailed from Nantes on Saturday, April 12, 1806, 
on the ship Polly, Captain Sammis, but they did not 
land in New York until Tuesday, May 28, after a 
perilous voyage of nearly eight weeks. A fortnight had 
been passed at sea when they sighted a suspicious look- 
ing vessel which immediately gave chase, fired several 
shots across their bows, and compelled the captain to 
heave to and submit to being boarded and searched. 
This proved to be an English privateer, named the 

fO^fM^^^ yG>CT*U*S ~^0uL. J*4~>T. ^/^W-C '^^ Xw 



From the Tom J. Rozier MSS. 

Rattlesnake. She was rather considerate for a British 
cruiser of the period, for she merely impressed two of 
their best seamen and robbed them of their provisions, 
carrying off, said Audubon, all of their "pigs, sheep, 
coffee and wine," 8 in spite of loud remonstrances of the 
captain and of an American Congressman who hap- 

8 In the register of the Central Committee of Nantes it is noted, 
under date of October 4, 1793, that "owing to the friendly relations 
then existing between France and the citizens of the United States, and 
to the good feeling evinced by them in sending to us for food, four 
American ships are accordingly permitted to leave the port of Nantes, 
with cargoes of wine, sugar, and coffee, and also to take enough biscuit 
for the voyage." 


pened to be among the passengers. "The Rattle- 
snake/' he continued, "kept us under her lee, and almost 
within pistol-shot, for a day and a night, ransacking the 
ship for money, of which we had a great store in the 
run under the ballast which was partially removed, but 
they did not go deep enough to reach the treasure. The 
gold belonging to Rozier and myself I put away under 
the ship's cable in the bow, where it remained until the 
privateers had departed." 

Upon reaching a point thirty miles off Sandy Hook, 
they learned from a fishing smack that two British 
frigates lay off the harbor and were impressing Ameri- 
can seamen, that, in short, they were even more un- 
welcome than pirates who sailed under letters of marque. 
The captain, thus forewarned of one danger, had the 
misfortune to run into another, for upon taking his 
vessel into Long Island Sound, she encountered a storm 
and was stranded in a gale ; no great harm was experi- 
enced, however, for the vessel was finally floated off 
and reached New York on the following day. The 
passage money paid by Audubon and Rozier to Cap- 
tain Sammis amounting to 525 livres, or $125, 9 was en- 
tered, according to their articles of agreement, as the 
first item of their "social expenses." After a brief visit 
with Benjamin Bakewell they hurried to "Mill Grove," 
and Audubon to the home of his sweetheart, Lucy. 

9 The receipt which the captain handed the young men, and which the 
methodical Rozier preserved, remains as a souvenir of this voyage (in the 
Tom J. Rozier MSS); it reads as follows: 

Recvd. from Mr. John Audubon & 

ferdinand Rozier the sum of five Hundred 
and twenty five Livers being in full for their 
passage from Nantes to New York in the Ship 

Polly S. Sammis 

[In Rozier's (?) handwriting] New York May 28, 1806 
[Indorsed by Rozier on back] Paye le 11 avril 1806 



Home of Audubon's youth at Coueron — Its situation on the Loire — His- 
tory of the villa and commune — Changes of a century. 

Before following further Audubon's history in 
America, we shall return for a more intimate view of 
the happy home which he had left behind him in France. 
This was at Coueron, a small commune in the arron- 
dissement of Saint-Nazaire, on the right bank of the 
Loire, nine miles west of Nantes. Here, as we have 
noticed, his father had acquired a country place at about 
the outbreak of the Revolution. The old house still 
stands, though in decay, and is still known as "La Ger- 
betiere," a name possibly referring to the wheat which 
is harvested from the surrounding fields as of yore. In 
the records of that district country places are always 
designated by their proper names, and it is a curious 
fact that while such names survive, they are seldom or 
never displayed on door or gate. 

In a journal written before 1826, Audubon says: 
"My father's beautiful country seat, situated within 
sight of the Loire, about mid-distance between Nantes 
and the sea, I found quite delightful to my taste, not- 
withstanding the frightful cruelties I had witnessed in 
that vicinity not many years previously. The gardens, 
greenhouses, and all appertaining to it appeared to me 
of a superior cast." Though it was occupied for many 
years previously as a refuge from the turmoil or heat 


















J— 1 


















































of the city, Lieutenant Audubon made "La Gerbetiere" 
his permanent abode only when he retired from the navy 
in 1801, still maintaining, as we have seen, a foothold 
in Nantes. 

Upon Audubon's first return from the United States 
in the spring of 1805, he said that his vessel entered the 
mouth of the Loire and anchored off Paimboeuf, the 
lower harbor of Nantes. "On sending my name to the 
principal officer of the customs," the narrative continues, 
"he came on board, and afterwards sent me to my fa- 
ther's villa, La Gerbetiere, in his barge and with his 
own men." It is to be noticed, incidentally, that as the 
distance to be covered between the lower and upper 
harbors was twenty-five miles, or sixteen miles to 
Coueron, such journeys no doubt were made upon the 
arrival of incoming vessels for the regular business of 
the service. 

It has been suggested, without proof, that Coueron 
represents the ancient town of Corbilo, mentioned by 
Strabo at the beginning of our era. Though unques- 
tionably ancient, at the time of the Revolution it was a 
small and unimportant parish of poor but industrious 
farmers. It occupies rolling ground, but little raised 
above the Loire, to the east of Port Launay and nearly 
opposite Pellerin. As this commune was easily acces- 
sible by river-barge from Nantes, the revolutionists 
seem to have thought it worth watching, though Citizen 
Audubon found its people in a tranquil mood when he 
canvassed their district in behalf of the Central Com- 
mittee in April, 1793. Coueron is still a farming com- 
munity, but its population ' has been considerably 

1 The total population of Coueron, as given in the official directory 
for 1913, was 2,035, but the total working population is probably three 
times as great. 


swelled in recent years by the development of a large 
industry for the treatment of lead; it is the shot tower 
and forest of chimneys of these great metallurgical 
works that arrest the eye of the traveler as he approaches 
Coueron by river at the present day. The town is also 
accessible by railroad, but the steamer journey from 
Nantes, which is made in less than an hour, is more 
attractive as well as more direct. In this section the 
Loire is flanked on either side by bottom lands, reduced 
in places to narrow strips, which are followed at inter- 
vals by elevations called, by courtesy, hills or buttes. To 
the west of Coueron, and especially at Pellerin, which 
stands high, these buttes come close to the river, which 
is eating them away. 

My visit to Coueron, which was made on a warm 
midsummer's day in 1913, served to correct certain pre- 
vious impressions, but I found the old Audubon home- 
stead in its essential aspects but little changed, consid- 
ering that over a century had rolled by since the nat- 
uralist's visit which we have just described. After leav- 
ing Nantes at the Gare de la Bourse by one of those 
quaint little trains which still do service in the less trav- 
eled parts of France, we traversed the broad Quai with 
requisite deliberation, passing shops, warehouses and 
factories in long array. A slight swerve from the river 
soon brought us to Chatenay, now a part of the city; 
it is still some distance from that point before the real 
countryside is reached, and scenes familiar to southern 
Brittany are in a measure reproduced. There were the 
old farmhouses of rough stone, dear to every painter's 
heart, mellowed by age and lichens, and surrounded by 
great ricks of straw, for the harvest had been gathered 
and the stubble fields were brown. There also the farms 
were divided into small plats, marked by willows or 


ramparts of stone. On higher ground stood the wind- 
mills, characteristic of Brittany also, — stalwart towers 
of stone, with broad arms of latticed wood ever ready 
to take the sails. 

The small station for Coueron lies in the commune 
of Sautron, and at this isolated point the traveler will 
sometimes find a country conveyance to take him to the 
village. While we were raising the dust from this old 
Coueron pike on the eighteenth day of August, swallows 
hawking with characteristic energy for their insect prey 
were the only birds we saw to remind us of the orni- 
thologist, who as a youth had doubtless passed this way 
many times, over a hundred years before. The most 
direct approach to the old Audubon place from Sautron, 
as we afterwards learned, is by a path which diverges 
on the right and leads through stubble fields and cab- 
bage patches, along hedgerows and stone walls. We, 
however, fared on to the town and soon began to pass 
shops and small modern houses. On the side of the 
village the traveler's eye is certain to be arrested by a 
great crucifix in stone, 2 which rises high above the street 
from a lofty pedestal, and is approached by tiers of 
stone steps. Nearly opposite stands the secretariat, or 
official bureau of the commune, where a solitary clerk, 
who seemed to welcome my intrusion in a place where 
business was utterly stagnant, closed his office and with 
characteristic courtesy cheerfully showed me the way. 
This led directly westward to one side of the center of 
the town, and after passing down a street of old houses 

2 There is also the grand calvaire, which stands on an eminence in 
the village. This was erected in 1825 on the foundations of the chateau 
of the dukes of Brittany, the last of whom, Francis II, died at Coueron 
in 1488. His tomb is in the nave of the cathedral at Nantes; the grand 
calvaire was restored by two Coueron families in 1873, and is a very elabo- 
rate structure. 


of the humblest description, we were again in the region 
of brown fields and old farmsteads. 

Coueron village, which is marked by a modern 
church with an aggressive spire, extends along the river 
bank, but since its streets run parallel with it, the river 
itself is seen only at certain openings, occurring at irreg- 
ular intervals. In going to "La Gerbetiere" by the 
course I have described, the Loire was not visible at any 
point, and was not seen until we emerged from one of 
the village streets at the steamer's pier. My guide had 
said that from the rise at the next crossroads we should 
see the roof of the house which we had come to visit, and 
his prediction was verified when I recognized immedi- 
ately its cupola raised above the gray stone walls which 
there bound every highway and field. The old villa is 
rather less than a mile from the village, but owing to the 
rolling nature of the country, it is completely hidden 
until at close approach it stands suddenly revealed. It 
lies in a fork of the road, securely inclosed by high, 
massive walls of stone, now hoary with age, while on 
the front it is further screened by a natural growth of 
bushes and trees. Immediately behind and to the west 
rises a prominent butte which cuts off the view to Port 
Launay on the river ; this forms the one distinctive land- 
mark of the district, as its two windmill towers are vis- 
ible from all surrounding points. In Audubon's day 
the house commanded a wide view of the Loire, but the 
river is now so completely masked by foliage as to be 
visible only from the upper windows; apparently it 
once flowed nearer to the house but has been pushed 
away by the construction of modern dykes. The hill- 
top to which I have just referred, like the roof of the 
villa, commands a panorama of the whole region, in- 
cluding Nantes and all the surrounding communes. 


"La Gerbetiere" is now a small estate of less than 
fifty ares, or one and a half acres, of land. The build- 
ings, which form a quadrangle with enclosed court, oc- 
cupy a corner next the side street, and stand about 200 
feet back from the main highway leading from Coueron 
to Port Launay. The extent of the original property 
cannot now be determined, but Lieutenant Audubon, 
who retired at the age of fifty-seven, was never a farmer 
on a large scale. The original house, which probably 
dates from early in the eighteenth century, has an east- 
erly wing or L, continued into a long, low section 
through which the court is now entered from the road at 
the side ; this was probably added by Jean Audubon, but 
the westerly end and wing are a more modern accretion, 
built for the accommodation of additional tenants, as 
many as three families having occupied the place in 

"La Gerbetiere" was entered from the main street 
by a small door which pierces the high enclosing wall, 
and leads the visitor into what was formerly an orna- 
mental garden, the original design of which can still be 
traced. At the time of my visit, however, this entrance 
had long ceased to be an avenue of response. Encour- 
aged by the sight of a peddler's cart, I walked up the 
side street and entered the court. Here the response 
was prompt and vigorous enough, and from the guard- 
ians of the place, one of which was chafing at his chain 
close to the doorway. I crossed rather gingerly to an 
open hallway, opposite the main entrance, and knocked 
repeatedly, noting here that rooms opened to this small 
entrance hall on either side, and that a steep stairway 
led to others above. At last, during a temporary lull 
in the barking of dogs, the "tok-tok" of sabots was 
heard on the stairs, and I handed up my card with one 


from the director of the Natural History Museum at 
Nantes. After various messages had been shouted back 
and forth, I was led through another passage to the 
tenant, who was talking with the peddler in the garden. 
Julien Lebreton, who was a farmer on a small scale, 
received me kindly and answered my questions to the 
best of his ability; it did not surprise me that he was 
both puzzled and suspicious, or that his first thought was 
of our coming to look over the place with a view to its 

The decayed villa, which stands in the midst of scat- 
tered farmhouses of a humble order, reproduces a style 
characteristic of many parts of France. The original 
house, of two stories, was built of cream-colored lime- 
stone, similar to that for which many French towns are 
famous. It has a swelled slated roof with beveled 
gables. Surmounting the roof is a cupola which sug- 
gests a third story, carried out in harmony with the 
lower structure. A narrow balcony, resting upon a 
molding of stone and protected by an iron grill, with- 
out which no such house would be considered complete, 
runs the length of the second story, and is accessible 
from every room by glass doors. From the main en- 
trance below one passes directly through to the court, 
about which are now grouped various stables and other 
low buildings, not all of which date from Audubon's 

What was once a small formal garden is still marked 
by solid boundaries of cut limestone. This was evi- 
dently constructed by Jean Audubon, since it occupies 
the area in front of the original house and the easterly 
extension which is attributed to him. The remaining 
available land was devoted to fruit, vegetables, and pos- 
sibly to the greenhouses which the naturalist mentioned. 





At one time an orangery occupied some part of the 
house or court. There are now no large trees on the 
property; the fruits are all of recent and inferior 
growth, while the garden I saw was planted to cabbage 
and running riot with weeds. 

When Jean and Madame Audubon passed through 
the door leading from the main street, they entered upon 
a paved alley which ran parallel with the high wall, 
whence they could reach the house by any one of several 
walks or enter the fruit garden by another. If so in- 
clined, they could turn to the right, ascend a flight of 
granite steps to a platform on a level with the top of 
the wall, and under a shady bower of vines and leafy 
shrubbery, look off on the racing waters of the Loire, 
scrutinize their visitors before admitting them, or ob- 
serve such manifestations of life as lonely country roads 
of that period had to offer. As they passed up the cen- 
tral garden walk they could admire the beds of old- 
fashioned flowers, kept, we may be sure, in perfect 
order, for Jean was a very methodical man, and his 
wife, we believe, an excellent home maker. This walk 
led to a low terrace, flanked with a heavy wall, which 
ran the whole length of the house. 

What little I saw of the interior of "La Gerbetiere" 
was wholly devoid of interest, which agrees with the 
experience of another traveler who visited Coueron at a 
slightly earlier date; 3 at the time of his visit the place 
was unoccupied and forlorn, and the vegetation on the 
garden side so dense that it was utterly impossible to 
see any distance from the lower windows. 

When "La Gerbetiere" came into Jean Audubon's 

3 Mr. William Beer, who paid a visit to "La Gerbetiere" with Dr. 
Louis Bureau in 1910, writes me that the woodwork was poor in quality, 
and that all the rooms had been altered in size and appearance. 


possession it was already venerable with age, and it 
was completely restored for him by an architect named 
Lavigne. 4 In an inventory drawn up shortly after 
Madame Audubon's death in October, 1821, the prop- 
erty of "La Gerbetiere" is described by reproducing the 
account given in an early deed bearing date of Novem- 
ber 11, 1769, which reads as follows: 

A house called La Gerbetiere, situated near the port of 
Launay, consisting of a sitting room, drawing room, kitchen, 
upper chamber . . . garret, and other quarters serving as a 
laundry, stable at the back, with pigeon loft above, court, par- 
terre, vegetable garden to one side, an orangery with orange 
trees, in the middle of the house, the whole in front of a close 
surrounded by high walls except on the side of the setting sun, 
with land belonging to the heirs of M. de la Haye Moricaud, 
held mutually, 5 the whole bounded on all other sides by high- 
ways. Notice: The aforesaid house and parterre [stand] in 
an empty field, which serves as a fair-ground, and is partly 
planted with young trees in serial rows ; held in common with 
the Marquis de la Musse, with another empty field containing 
about two journals of land. . . . 6 

"La Gerbetiere," never more than an unpretentious 
country house with an attractive garden, was idealized 
in the fervent imagination of Audubon when in after 
life he drew upon the memories of his youth in France ; 
for it had meant to him escape from the city, which he 
detested, to the fields and river which he loved. Yet, 
in spite of the abuse which a long line of poor tenantry 
inevitably entails, with intervals of total neglect last- 

4 But not related to M. L. Lavigne, to whom I am indebted for ex- 
tracts from the deed, a translation of which is given below, as well as 
for many other references. 

D That is, the landlord to receive one-half the produce. 

6 A "journal" of land being as much as a man could cultivate in a 
day's labor. 


ing for nearly a century, this decayed villa of pre-Revo- 
lutionary days still stands in marked contrast to its 
neighbors, and bears witness to a taste to which they 
were strangers. The greenhouses, the fruit and shade 
trees, if such it possessed, and all lesser adornments of 
the place have vanished long ago, but thanks to the 
durability of French stone and mortar, much about this 
old country seat is still well preserved. Whether Audu- 
bon ever saw his old Coueron home again after leaving 
it in 1806 is doubtful, though one of his sons visited the 
place, and the naturalist incidentally speaks of a pil- 
grimage to Les Sables d'Olonne which might have oc- 
curred in 1831 or a little later. In following the for- 
tunes of the naturalist's family in France it will be nec- 
essary for us to return to La Gerbetiere. 7 

7 See Chapter XVII. 



Audubon and Rozier at "Mill Grove" — Their partnership rules — Attempts 
to form a mining company lead to disappointment — Decision to sell 
their remaining interests in "Mill Grove" to Dacosta — Division of the 
property and legal entanglements — Audubon as a clerk in New York — 
Business correspondence and letters to his father — Later history of 
the lead mine and Dacosta — Audubon continues his drawings in New 
York and works for Dr. Mitchell's Museum — Forsakes the counting 
room for the fields — Personal sketch. 

When Audubon and Rozier reached "Mill Grove" 
at the beginning of the summer of 1806, they found 
the troublesome Dacosta installed as its master by virtue 
of his interest in the property and his former position 
as agent, to which they were now to succeed. No doubt 
they found difficulties in carrying out all the articles of 
agreement 1 in their business constitution, for they were 
to take possession and call Dacosta to account. They 
were also in duty bound to investigate the lead mine 
on the farm, and ascertain whether it promised any 
success, and if the expenses already incurred were war- 

1 For the privilege of examining Ferdinand Rozier's copy of their 
"Articles of Association" I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. Charles 
A. Rozier, of Saint Louis. This is written on three sides of hand-made, 
hand-ruled Government linen, small letter size, with printed revenue stamp 
(50 centimes) of the French Republic at top, and stamped with the 
seal of the Department of Registration and Stamps ("ADM. DES DOM. 
DE L'ENREG. ET DU TIMBRE REP. FR A.— Administration des 
domaines de l'e~iregistrement et du timbre, Republique Frangaise"). The 
signature of "Jean Audubon" bears a close resemblance to that of the 
father, Lieutenant Jean Audubon, who was undoubtedly the author of 
the document. For the "Articles" in full, in French and English, see 
Appendix I, Documents Nos. 9 and 9a. 


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After the original manuscript of Rozier's copy, in possession of Mr. Charles 

A. Rozier. 


ranted, before committing themselves to further devel- 
opment. One-half the product of the mine and farm 
was to be equally divided between them, and in order 
to visualize clearly their profit and loss, they agreed to 
keep a "special book for the purpose." "On one side," 
their third "Article" read, "will be entered the items of 
expense, day by day, and at the moment this is done, 
on the other side [shall also be entered] the sales and 
products of the farms, and of all that can result from 
this business, in such a way that the profit shall be 
always apparent by the addition of the items which 
compose the debit and the credit." 

The house at "Mill Grove" was to be treated as an 
object separate from all business, "in order," so the 
"Articles" read, "that we may settle matters as com- 
pletely as we desire." It was also agreed, in the fourth 
"Article," that they should "add to the expenses of 
this exploitation those necessary for life, and others of 
a mutual character, so long as it should suit them to 
live and dwell together." It was further stipulated that 
even if the mine proved a failure, they should remain 
six months on the farm, in order to gather useful infor- 
mation from the country, before embarking in any form 
of commerce, whether inland or maritime. The cost of 
their journey to America was to be entered as the first 
item of their "social expenses," and any expenditure 
for travel in their mutual interests was to be considered 
under the same head. In case they should persuade any 
merchants in America to send goods to M. Rozier, 
Senior, at Nantes, he should be entitled to one-half the 
profits, while the partners should divide the other half 
between them. All other profits and losses resulting 
from their commercial transactions were to be shared 
equally. The partners resolved to maintain friendship 


and a mutual understanding, but "upon the least dif- 
ficulty" each should choose one arbitrator, and the two 
thus chosen were authorized to select a third; the part- 
ners were bound to accept the decision thus reached 
without appealing to any court. In the case of the 
death of one of the associates, read the tenth "Article," 
the survivor should have sole charge of making a set- 
tlement of the business and should report to the proper 
heirs. The survivor, in such an event, would be enti- 
tled to a commission of ten per cent [in addition to his 
one-half interest], but in no case should the partnership 
be dissolved "until after nine years, counting from the 
day of the date of the present [instrument]." As will 
be seen, Audubon and Rozier were unable to fulfill all 
the conditions thus carefully laid down. 

Young Audubon's dislike of Dacosta, the uncer- 
tainty of the mining project, and other difficulties of 
the situation soon decided the partners to cut short their 
stay at "Mill Grove." Both were equally interested in 
the lead mine, but after working several months with- 
out success in an attempt to form a mining company, 
they wisely decided to leave such experiments to the 
enthusiastic Dacosta and to seek an opening in trade, 
where the hazard would be no greater and their igno- 
rance less profound. Following the advice of their 
Quaker friend, Miers Fisher, they decided to sell to 
Dacosta their remaining rights in "Mill Grove." As a 
preliminary it was necessary to divide the property 
which had been held in common by him and Lieutenant 
Audubon since 1804, and this division was effected by 
an agreement drawn up at Philadelphia on the fifth day 
of September, 1806. 2 Ten days later the remainder 

2 Among the elder Rozier's papers was part of an old letterbook be- 
longing to his son; it is written in French, and labeled "Correspondence 
of Ferdinand Rozier." On one of the four sheets preserved this item 


of "Mill Grove" was conveyed to Francis Dacosta, rep- 
resenting a number of capitalists whom he had man- 
aged to interest in the mine, of whom the astute 
Stephen Girard is said to have been one. The sale 
was subject to conditions, 3 dependent upon their suc- 
cess in mining lead, which, as will appear eventually, 
could not have been fulfilled. These various transac- 
tions are so clearly set forth by Ferdinand Rozier in 
writing to his father at Nantes that we shall reproduce 
his letter in full : 4 

Ferdinand Rozier to Claude Francois Rozier 

Philadelphia, 12 Sept., 1806 
My very dear and venerable father : 

Still in hope of cherished news from you, and replies to 
my letters of 31 May, 22 June, and 4 July, I have to tell }^ou 
that we have since succeeded in closing all our business rela- 
tions with Mr. Francis Dacosta, in the following manner: We 
are anxious that our method of procedure may be satisfactory 
to you ; we have followed the advice of Mr. Miers Fisher, and 
have had his approval in all that we have done. What should 
set you at rest is that as regards your investment, you will find 

occurs: "4 July, 1806, Philadelphia; record of an agreement with Mr. 
Dacosta, proprietor of one half of the Mill Grove farm, — at least of the 
value of sale." The first entry is dated "19 fevrier— 1806, New York," 
which, if correct, would imply that Rozier spent two years instead of one 
in the United States when he visited this country in 1804. (or came a second 
time), and that he returned, with young Audubon, almost immediately after 
reaching France (see Vol. I, p. 245); the last record is "August, 1807, New 
York." (MS. in possession of Dr. Louis Bureau, Nantes.) 

3 According to the records of Montgomery County, as collated for 
Mr. W. H. Wetherill, the remaining half interest in "Mill Grove" was 
sold by J. J. Audubon (and Ferdinand Rozier) to Francis Dacosta & 
Company, for a consideration of $9,640.33. The business was conducted 
mainly by Rozier, acting under the advice of their friend, Miers Fisher. 

4 Translated from the French of Ferdinand's copy, in possession of 
Mr. Welton A. Rozier, to whom I am indebted for the privilege of repro- 
ducing it. 


that I have made quite a neat profit. Here is a copy of the 

"It is agreed between Mr. Dacosta and Mr. J. Audubon 
that the farm of "Mill Grove," which they now hold in 
common, shall be divided between them as follows : 

"1. Mr. Dacosta shall have the lot of 113 and a half 
acres, situated on the N.E. side of Perkioming creek, with 
all the buildings, mines, et cet., and in general all that it 

"2. Mr. Audubon shall have the lot of 171 acres, situ- 
ated on the other side of the creek. 

"3. Mr. Dacosta shall pay to Mr. Audubon for the 
difference [in value] of the lot of 113V2 acres, and of that 
which it contains : 

"1. The sum of eight hundred dollars, payable 
with interest, in three years from this day ; 

"2. The sum of four thousand dollars, upon the 
first products of the lead mine. 
"4. The contract made with Mr. Thomas shall remain 
to the charge of the two parties. 

"Note. Mr. Duponceau is begged to draw up the neces- 
sary deeds to put this agreement into execution, which 
[deeds] we undertake mutually to exchange at the first 

"[Executed] at Philadelphia, this 5th of Sept, 1806." 

[Signed] "F cis Dacosta" 
"Ferdinand Rozier" 
"J. Audubon" 

The futile attempt that we have made to form a company 
[to work this mine], which is a condition [of success], the 
slight resources at our command, as well as our lack of knowl- 
edge in work of this kind, all have determined us to abandon 
our rights for the offer of four thousand dollars 5 upon the first 
products that shall come from the mine. The expense that must 

6 "Gourdes," that is, piasters or Spanish dollars. 


be incurred in [working] it will be very heavy ; to this must be 
added the uncertainty of success. The mine may promise much 
at the beginning, and after that yield nothing. In short an 
enterprise of this kind can be properly conducted only by a 
capitalist or by a company. We have regarded this mine as a 
lottery which can make the fortune of the promoter, or lead 
him into great losses. As to the agreement with Mr. Wm. 
Thomas, we do not consider it as very serious ; since it is quite 
uncertain whether he will be paid in whole or in part, as he has 
not kept his agreements. This is Mr. Dacosta's opinion. As 
to our half we are decided not to let it go under eight thou- 
sand dollars, which is its value as estimated by several farmers. 
So you see, my dear papa, that our half [as worth] 8,000 
dollars, at least, the sum of eight hundred dollars by mortgage, 
with interest, and that of four thousand dollars upon the first 
products from the mine, will cover easily the interest on the 
purchase of sixteen thousand francs. 

Since expenses are at least double what they would be in 
France, owing to the cost of products of every sort, we are de- 
termined to go into trade, to cover our expenses, and to choose 
for ourselves some kind of serious work that can lead us to an 
honorable establishment. You should be at ease about the 
manner we shall adopt for our operations, as we wish only to 
go slowly, and especially [to be] guided by the advice of the 
respectable persons whose acquaintance we are so fortunate as 
to enjoy, and who beyond a doubt will aid us along this thorny 

"By our letter of the 4th July we have sent the account 
current of Mr. Dacosta, by which Mr. Audubon is charged with 
315 dollars and 5 cents; we have begged you to send the docu- 
mentary evidence which may put us in a position to prove that 
Mr. Audubon ought not to pay Mr. Dacosta's private expenses, 
as the matter is to be decided here by arbitrators. We beg Mr. 
Audubon to use the utmost speed in sending his documents. It 
is our ardent [hope] also that you have received our first 
[letter] of May 31, with that of Mr. Bakewell, the merchant 
in New York, with a remittance of 3,000 and a few francs for 


the purchase of divers objects. I assure you that we are in 
the greatest anxiety [as to] what is the state of your health, 6 
as well as that of the family, and to learn if you have received 
our letters. The nephew of Mr. Bakewcll writes us that his 
uncle in New York has despatched several vessels consigned to 
you, for which I congratulate you sincerely. We have also 
received your letter of the 30th of June, but I cannot reply to 
it, since the boat is leaving this evening for Amsterdam, but 
you can count upon my conforming to its contents. Your per- 
sonal letter grieved me particularly by your last expressions, 
and I should wish that you would have done me more justict; I 
can have made mistakes, but for . . . the idea alone has made 
me shudder. I am delighted that all the family is enjoying 
perfect health. Embrace dear Mama for me ; my kind regards 
to my brother and sisters ; do not forget to remember me to all 
the family, and to our friend, Mr. Audubon, the father, and 
his family. Finally, my dear Papa, be assured that I shall 
forget nothing to increase our intimacy. You give me the 
means of supporting it with labor. Believe in my sincere and 
enduring attachment. 

Your respectful son, 

Ferdinand Rozier. 

We are eager to hear of the receipt of 
our letters, and we beg you to ad- 
dress them to Mr. Bakewell of New 

The inbred caution, sound sense, and sterling 
integrity which this letter displays would be a good 
foundation for any career, and we are not surprised 
to find that in after life Ferdinand Rozier became a 
keen and successful trader on the western frontier. 

The division and sale of "Mill Grove" probably 

6 Claude Francois Rozier, at this time an aged man, died at Nantes 
on September 7, 180T; he had two sons and six daughters, of whom 
Ferdinand was the second son and the fifth child; his wife, Renee 
Angelique Colas, died at Nantes, February 9, 1824. 




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ended the joint interests of the elder Audubon and 
Rozier, for in November, 1806, a new power of attor- 
ney 7 was given to the young men by Lieutenant Audu- 
bon and his wife; as later events will prove, however, 
their rights in the property were not completely sur- 
rendered with its transfer to Dacosta and his mining 
company in the autumn of this year. The partners were 
now free to "choose some kind of serious work," and 
Ferdinand, who was then twenty-nine, was anxious to 
make a beginning at once. Since he was not as yet 
proficient in the English tongue, Rozier engaged as a 
clerk in the French importing house of Laurence 
Huron, of Philadelphia, while Audubon, following the 
advice of his future father-in-law, entered the office of 
the latter's brother, Benjamin Bakewell, in New York. 
In the autumn of 1806 Benjamin Bakewell was 
conducting a successful wholesale importing business at 
175 Pearl Street. He then owned several vessels, and 
his correspondents were scattered over England, 
France, the West Indies and the Southern States. 
With him were associated at this time a number of 
young men, including his nephew, Thomas W. Bake- 

7 This was issued, so the letter reads, to "their son, John Audubon, 
and Ferdinand Rozier, both of the said city of Philadelphia, Gentlemen," 
by "John Audubon, late of the city of Philadelphia, in the common- 
wealth of Pennsylvania, now residing in the commune of Coueron, near the 
city of Nantes in France, Gentleman, and Anne Moynette, his wife," to 
apply to all lands and other property belonging to them in the United 
States, with the power to "raise or borrow money on the whole or any part 
or parts of the said lands, tenements, or hereditaments, to secure the 
repayment of said monies by bond, warrant of attorney, to contest judg- 
ment of the mortgage of the said lands, tenements, or hereditaments, or 
any part or parts thereof. . . ." Written in French and English; signed 
by Jean Audubon, Anne Moynet, his wife, by Doctors Chapelain and C. 
d'Orbigny as witnesses, by the mayor of Coueron, the prefect of the 
arrondissement and the prefect of the department; countersigned on 
December 4, 180G, by W. D. Patterson, of the "Commercial Agency of the 
United States at Nantes." For the favor of examining this paper, I am 
indebted to the kindness of Miss Maria R. Audubon. 


well, Thomas Pears, a nephew of his wife, Thomas 
Bakewell, his son, as well as John James Audubon. 
The hospitable family to which young Audubon was 
now admitted on terms of intimacy, in accordance with 
the custom of the day, lived in the rear of the counting- 
house during the winter months but in summer migrated 
to the country, the Bakewells going five miles out on 
the Bloomingdale Road. Benjamin Bakewell had 
come to this country in 1794, in the same year as the 
famous chemist, Joseph Priestley, whose friendship he 
enjoyed and whose religious teachings had drawn both 
him and his brother, William, from rigid Calvinism to 
the greater tolerance of the Unitarian belief. At 
twenty-four he was an independent mercer in Corn- 
hill, London, and was well acquainted in France, where 
he had spent considerable time during the Revolution, 
which had destroyed his trade. One of his patrons at 
this time was Claude Francois Rozier of Nantes, and 
inasmuch as the correspondence with him had to be 
conducted in French, and may possibly in this instance 
have been due to young Audubon's initiative, it was 
naturally intrusted to him. 

Seven letters of the naturalist, dating from January 
10, 1807, to July 19 of that year, by good fortune have 
been preserved, and they throw into full light another 
shaded corner of his interesting life. From the con- 
tents of these letters, 8 as well as from other facts, we 

8 For the privilege of examining these letters I am indebted to the 
courtesy of Dr. Louis Bureau, Director of the Museum of Natural His- 
tory and Professor in the School of Medicine at Nantes, maternal great- 
grandson of Francois, and grandnephew of Ferdinand Rozier. The letters 
were found in an old trunk that once belonged to his grandfather, Francois 
Denis Rozier. Five were written in French (Nos. 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7), and 
addressed from New York to Francois Rozier at Nantes; one (No. 3) 
in English and another (No. 5) in French were sent in care of Rozier, 
to his father, John Audubon, Esq., Nantes, with the direction to be 
delivered as soon as possible; all are on unruled foolscap, wafer-sealed 


know that Audubon remained in Bakewell's office for 
nearly a year, from the autumn of 1806 to the summer 
of 1807. Bakewell's house imported linens, lace, gloves, 
wines, firearms and any kind of merchandise that prom- 
ised a ready and remunerative sale in New York; in 
return they forwarded coffees, sugars and other com- 
modities to Rozier, receiving from him also prices cur- 
rent and introductions to other merchants in France. 
Another correspondent was the Huron firm in Phila- 
delphia, so it is probable that Ferdinand owed his em- 
ployment there to Benjamin Bakewell. 

While Audubon expressed himself at this time as 
freely in English as in French, in the former language 
the tendencies of his French tongue and the influence of 
his Quaker friends were strangely blended. He never 
bothered with accents, and took as many liberties with 
the spelling of French as of English. Some of these 
lapses are purely phonetic, while others are more orig- 
inal, as "schacket" for "packet," "fither" for "Fisher"; 
two variations of Rozier's name and of Nantes occur 
in the same letter. It should be remembered, however, 
that at the beginning of the nineteenth century bad or 
random spelling was a very venial offense, which gen- 
tlemen of quality, or even scholars, could commit with 
impunity. In this respect Audubon's early essays in 
English would probably compare favorably with Gib- 
bon's youthful French. 

and each also bears an outside seal in wax, stamped with Bakewell's 
initial (B). It is not possible to say whether Lieutenant Audubon ever 
received these letters of his son; if received, it is not very obvious why 
they should have been left in the old merchant's hands, unless his ill health 
at the time, and subsequent death were the cause (see Note, Vol. I, p. 152). 
I am further indebted to Mr. William Beer, for the perusal of his copies, 
which have been followed to a large extent. 

Since all of these early letters throw an interesting light upon the 
times as well as upon Audubon's personal history, we shall give them in 
full, rendering the French into English as literally as practicable. 


John James Audubon to Claude Francois Rozier 

[Letter No. 1, addressed] 

M. Fr. Rozier, 


New York, 10 January, 1807. 

Dear Sir : 

We have had the pleasure of receiving by the Penelope your 
consignment of 20 pieces of linen cloth, for which we send our 
thanks. As soon as we have sold them, we shall take great 
pleasure in making our return. 

I am truly sorry that you had not received any letters from 
us when you wrote, and I am also very disconsolate at having 
no news from my good father. You did us a most acceptable 
service in making us acquainted with your friends in different 
parts of France, and in offering to send us such goods as you 
shall deem suitable. Upon the same proposals I sent you orders 
several months ago, and did I dare, I should tell you that all 
articles having much show and little value are the very things 
that are a la mode, and these in one hundred per cent, [and] 
I assure you that we should be very happy to receive some small 
consignments. As soon as we shall have realized our funds, 
we will make our orders, in accordance with our means. Mr. 
Bakewell has made a great profit on the consignment that you 
made him shortly after our arrival. We should be flattered by 
another like it. Have the kindness to write us often, and to 
send us prices current as far as possible. I hope that you 
will have had our letters concerning a plan of business with 
Mr. Huron. If you will have the kindness to see him, 9 he can 
communicate to you his ideas on the subject. His plan, I be- 
lieve, will be advantageous both to you and to us. 

Your son is just about to come from Philadelphia, to live 
in New York until there is some news ; but we will write you 
more at length by Capt. Sammis, who brought us to this coun- 
try. I even venture to hope that you will send back some 
merchandise for us. Have the kindness to forward us invoices, 

9 This Philadelphia merchant was evidently in France and intend- 
ing to visit Nantes at this time. 


with the goods consigned to us, in order to avoid the penalty 
and the expense of having them taken to a public warehouse, 
[a proceeding] which is often a great disadvantage on ac- 
count of the fees. Consign always to Mr. Benjamin Bakewell, 
who treats us, so far as possible, as good friends. 

Present my respects to your family, and believe me ever 

your faithful servant, 

J. J. Audubon. 

John James Audubon to Claude Francois Rozier 

[Letter No. 2, addressed] 
Monsieur Fr. Rozier, 

Loire Inferieure. 

New York, April 2%, 1807. 
My dear Sir: 

I am profiting by a good opportunity for Bordeaux to 
apprise you of the receipt of a duplicate of the orders that 
you gave us several months ago. You will also know that the 
wines, consigned to Mr. L. Huron, have arrived in this city 
and the insurance has been saved. Your son has gone to the 
spot [the dock in Philadelphia], and by one of his letters ad- 
vised me that the 60 cases of wine are sold. He tells me that 
you can count on a net profit of nearly 20 p. c. If it turns 
out very good, the remainder will not fail to find a purchaser. 
Mr. Le Ray has arrived and has brought with him a small 
box of lace for Mr. Benjamin Bakewell here; it ought to arrive 
in a few days from Philadelphia. Mr. B. B. appeared satisfied 
with the sale of his squared timber ; he is anxious only to see 
the returns ; he is unhappy that the commerce of your town with 
this country cannot be regularly conducted except by Bor- 
deaux, whence we have vessels every month. As our friend, 
Ferdinand, will write you from Philadelphia concerning Mr. 
Huron, I shall not enlarge about him. In several of your 
letters you intimate that if we decide upon establishing a retail 


shop, you can keep us constantly employed; our ideas upon 
tills subject are in perfect accord, and it would be indeed a 
pleasure if we could start under the auspices and good advice 
of Mr. Bakewell here; objects well chosen, favorably bought, 
and shipped with care, are always sure of meeting a good sale. 
I venture to hope that the ship La Jeanne, Capt. Sammis, will 
have arrived in your port, and that the Indigoes shipped by 
Mr. Bakewell will reach there in time for che sale of this 
merchandise, of which I have some fears, in view of the sum 
they have cost him. 

We thank you for the prices current that you have sent 
us. In one of my last, directed by way of Bordeaux, I begged 
you to call on Mr. Fleury Emery for a box of seeds, from 
Martinique and from this country, for you and for my father. 
This was aboard the ship, the Virginia, Capt. Roberts, from 
this section. We hope shortly to send you some merchandise, 
and possibly Mr. Bakewell will profit by an opportunity that 
we shall have in a few days for your port. A little more than 
three weeks ago I was at Mill Grove, and I rented it for a 
year, being unable to do better for the present. Your son, now 
in Philadelphia, is trying to settle the accounts of my father 
with Mr. Dacotta [Dacosta], who does not easily forget the 
role of chicaner. Present, I pray you, my respects and com- 
pliments to your good family and wife, and believe in me as 
your devoted and constant 

J. J. Audubon. 
Have the kindness to deliver the enclosed to my good father. 

The following quaint and charming letter, which 
young Audubon enclosed with the preceding and un- 
der separate seal, but which his "good father" may not 
have received, will be transcribed in full, without the 
change of a letter or mark. Lieutenant Audubon, who 
was then in his sixty-third year, was living, as we have 
seen, at Coueron, the small river town nine miles west of 


Nantes, the center of the mails for the Loire Inferieure, 
and came frequently to that city to conduct his business 

John James Audubon to Jean Audubon 

[Letter No. 3, enclosed with No. 2, addressed] 
John Audubon, Esq., 

pr Bourdeaux 

New York April 24th 1807 
My dear Father 

I send thee by a good opportunity, but going to Bordeaux 
I deed send about a month ago a small Box containing some 
very curious seeds & some useful ones the whole was directed 
to Mr. Fleury Emery it was given here to the Care of Capt. . 
Roberts of the Virginia I do hope they are now in thy pos- 
session thou have been so often disappointed that it always 
pains me to think that they have been Miscarried: thou shalt 
found some of the Best Whatter Missions and Girmonds Called 
here St. Domingo Schachet 10 as in a few days I shall have 
again a good opportunity for Nantz I will send thee a Dupli- 
cate of the same Seeds, I have seen in the News Paper that a 
ship called the Betzey had been in Nantz do make some En- 
quiries for it there are on board of her Many Birds and a col- 
lection of seeds from America for thee The Caps. . Mc Dougal ; 
pray when thou answer to this be kind enough to mantion 
these little things. I hope that the Jane Cap. . Sammis as 
reached your Port and given thee some Turtle fit to be eaten in 
soupe. Mr. L. Huron deed few days ago. Received some 
Wines on a/c of M. Rozier and hits they prove goods 11 and 
will bring a good profit. Mr. F. Rozier the son speaks of 
going to France some time this summer he is now near Mr. 
Huron at Philadelphia and will try while he is there to settle 
the Business between M. .Dacotta and thee M. .Rozier had 

I » ( 

II «n 

'Of the St. Domingo packet." 

'Mr. L. Huron did, a few days ago, receive some wines on a/c of 
M. Rozier, and hopes they prove good," etc. 


shosen M. . Huron for arbitrator but I would not agree to it 
until M. . Miers fither 12 was to have part in it. I am now 
waiting for an answer. I am allways in Mr. Benjamin Bake- 
well's store where I work as much as I can and passes my days 

happy; about thee weeks ago I went to Mill Grove for a/c of 
the latter and had the pleasure of seeing there my Biloved Lucy 
who constantly loves me and makes me perfectly happy. I shall 
wait for thy Consent and the one of my good Mamma to Marry 
her. could thou but see her and thou wouldst I am sure be 
pleased of the prudency of my choice ; M. . B. Bakewell is all- 
ways willing to oblige me and will do many things for me: do 
not participate the Ideas of M. Rozier Going to France to his 
father it would perhaps Injure us for a while. I wish thou 
would wrights to me ofnor and longuely think by thy self 
how pleasing it is to read a friend's letter. Give my love 
to all my friends and thine and kiss mamma, Rosa and Brother 
Pigaudeau 13 for me I hope they continue to be all happy, 
do remember to send me thy portrait in miniature dressed as 
an officer 14 it will cost thee little and will please me much. 
Some of thy hair and ask my sister for the Music she does not 
want. I wish to receive some letter from M. . Dorbigny 15 whom 
I have often wrighten and send some curiosities he is yet to 
answer to my first. 

When thou seeist Mr Rozier pray him and try to engage 
him to send us some-goods then we feel very inclined to set 
up in a retail store which would do, us a great deal of good. 

"Miers Fisher, for many years Jean Audubon's trusted agent and 
attorney in America. See Vol. I, p. 100. 

13 Gabriel Loyen du Puigaudeau, his brother-in-law. 

"That is a miniature of an old portrait of his father in the uniform 
of a lieutenant-commander, which with its companion, representing Mme. 
Jean Audubon, his stepmother, then hung in the house of "La Gerbetiere" 
at Coueron. The original portraits, which are reproduced facing page 78, 
measure 23y„ by 18y 2 inches, and were painted probably between 1801 
and 1806; they were inventoried in documents bearing date of November 
14, 15 and 17, 1821, shortly after Mme. Jean Audubon's death. They 
we're restored in Paris about ten years ago for Monsieur Lavigne, to 
whom I am indebted for the photographs and this information. 

16 Audubon's intimate friend, see Vol. I, p. 128. 


I will send him a letter by this opportunity — Good by farwell 
good father believe me for life thy most sincere friend be 
well be happy 

thy son 
J. . J. . Audubon 
J'espere que tu poura lire — adieu — adieu. 

John James Audubon to Claude Francois Rozier 

[Letter No. 4, addressed] 
Mr. Fccis Rozier, 

Merct, Nantes — Ocean. 

New York, May 6th, 1807. 
Dear Sir: 

I wrote you recently by a ship going to Bordeaux ; the let- 
ters were carefully intrusted, and I hope that they were re- 
ceived. I notified you of the arrival of the wines to the ad- 
dress of Mr. Huron of Philadelphia, and told you that part 
of the cases were sold. Your son informed me this morning 
that wine of so good quality ought never to be exported in 
cask, and that the profit would have been greater if the whole 
had been in case. Mr. Benjamin Bakewell has received the bill 
of lading of Mess Gereche brothers, and the gloves and the 
lace are at present on the road from Philadelphia to this place ; 
perhaps we shall have them tomorrow ; I am afraid that they 
may be dear. In several of your letters to Ferdinand you 
speak of a retail store, and my friend begs me tell you that 
nothing could suit us better than that you should have the 
kindness to send us enough [goods] to set up a shop at once 
on a good footing. As soon as advised, we shall order you 
to stock it with merchandise of your choice. You should have 
already received the bill of sale of a bale of linen cloth. You 
can judge that I have learned to shave Messrs the Americans, 
since I have been with Mr. B. B. In conscience, however, [the 
goods] have been sold at one third above their value. Should 
you decide upon sending another [shipment], do not count upon 
so good a sale. You must know, however, that I am always 


disposed to do everything for your interests, and that I shall 
always seek to merit your approbation. Should you decide 
to make [us] a consignment for a retail shop, have the kind- 
ness to follow, point by point, the following bill: 

60 doz. morocco leather powder flasks — green or gray, 
copper mounted, like those that you sell at the 
shoj3 for 25 sols [soldos]. 
60 doz. d. d. of leather, mahogany color, at the same 
100 boxes d. 
100 music boxes, 16 in prices from 10 to 18 francs, good 

pieces and gay music. 
100 boxes of seal-wafers, containing 1 gross each, assorted 
in color [but] more of the red than any other. 
10 gross of small boxes of seal-wafers. 
3 boxes of pastels, good, well assorted, and chosen by 
the sons of M. Belloc ; more would not return us 
If you could procure us good books in English at Paris, 
M. Bakewell assures me [that we would realize] a great profit 
on them, and upon the other articles as given above, if well 
chosen. We hope to sell Mill Grove, and we will credit you 
with a great part of the profit in colonial merchandise. It is 
with impatience that I await some news of the indigo of Mr. 
B. Bakewell. Have the kindness, I pray you, to forward the 
enclosed letter to my father as soon as possible, and will you 
take from the ship Ocean, the carrier of this letter, a little 
box [sent] to your address for him, and will you send this to 
him also? Present my respects to your ladies ; accept mine and 
those of the Bakewell family. Ferdinand is well. I salute you, 
and I am your devoted friend, 


Herewith the bill of lading of the box. 
The captain did not wish to make any 
charge, and has been perfectly polite. 

ia "Serinettes," the old time music boxes, or bird-organs, of Swiss origin, 


John James Audubon to Jean Audubon 

[Letter No. 5, inclosed with No. 4, in French, and addressed] 
Mr. Fccis Rozier 

pour Mr. Audubon pere 
aussitot que possible 
My dear Friend : 

Thou wilt find herewith a bill of lading of a small box con- 
taining nineteen species of seeds, a bottle of reptiles for Mr. 
Derbigny [D'Orbigny], and some dried plants also for the lat- 
ter. I will write thee of Mr. Kauman, by the ship Mentor, 
which is to leave a little while after this one. Adieu, my good 
friend! The box will be addressed to Mr. Audubon, Md, 17 
Nantes, with "American seeds" written above ; besides two Bs, 
like this which follows B. 18 The Capn. promises me to take care 

of it, and of my letters also. If thou findest in my letter any- 
thing which displeases thee, remember that I am thy son. Adieu ! 
Farewell, my good friend ! Thine for life. 

J. J. Audubon. 
New York, May 6, 1807. 

Do not forget, I pray thee, to send me for the good Mrs. 
Bakewell the complete works of Mr. Genlis 19 by the first op- 
portunity, and for me an exact copy of the departments of 
France like that which I made, and which is in thy cabinet. 
I wish thee to copy them for my brother-in-law. 20 

that were very popular in America down to the time of the Civil War, 
or even later. They were manufactured at St. Croix as late as 1880; instru- 
ments of similar type, with dancing figures, have been adapted to the penny- 
in-the-slot machines common in Switzerland to-day. 

17 Marchand, or retail merchant. 

18 Initials of the head of his firm, Benjamin Bakewell. 

19 The reference was to Mme. Stephanie-Felicite de Genlis (1746-1830), 
teacher of the children of the Duke of Orleans, Philippe-Egalite, and 
authoress of many works on education, once popular, but now known only 
to the antiquary and the ragman. 

20 Meaning possibly his prospective brother-in-law, Thomas W. Bake- 
well, a fellow clerk in the office. 


John James Audubon to Claude Francois Rozier 

[Letter No. 6, addressed] 
Monsieur Fccis Rozier, 
p. Brig Mentor 

New York, May 30th, 1807. 

Mr. Francis Rozier, 

Merchant, Nantes. 
Dear Sir: 

By my last, sent on board the ship Ocean, Capt. Bunken, 
I apprised you of the arrival of the gloves and lace, shipped 
by your order at Rochelle for the account of my good friend, 
Benj. Bakewell. I can now inform you of their sale, which 
is also advantageous, although the principal part was fine 
and of very great price. The gloves in prices of 23# 28# D, 
are what is needed for this market here, and especially if they 
are of any other color than yellow or bottle green they are 
less apt to soil; further they conceal defects more, and find 
in consequence more purchasers. The laces were better, al- 
though there was a heavy duty. You should know that here 
the extravagance of the women equals or rather quite balances 
the circumspection of the men, so that all articles for women 
should be beautiful, that is to say, conspicuous. I await with 
a kind of pleasure the arrival of Cap. Sammis, for although 
I am convinced that the indigoes will meet with no success 
at Nantes, their return here will compensate us. I am sorry 
that I did not order from you some little pistols and the guns 
which would serve perfectly. Believe nothing as to Mr. Bake- 
well, and be well assured that he is our friend. Have then 
less fear: I hope shortly to consign, that is to say, Mr. B. B. 
will consign for us, coffee and sugar from Martinique to your 
address. Your son is still at Philadelphia with Mr. Huron. 
They have sold the wines quite well. 

But in truth I have been astonished that Mr. Huron did 
not make you an immediate return. I thank you sincerely for 


the little package that you said had been prepared for us. Be 
sure that Mr. B. B. will aid us to a sufficient degree, and al- 
ways in a way that anything which you send us will be promptly 
returned in merchandise assigned to you. The land, which we 
cannot sell without a great disadvantage, keeps us very short 
of cash, and prevents us for the moment from dealing on as 
large a scale as we should desire ; but with your kindness in 
sending us the materials for starting a grand retail shop with 
different articles, it will aid us very much. As you well say, 
it is a little unfortunate that there is no longer a boat from 
your port here. 

I write to my father by the same opportunity. Will you, 
I pray, get it to him as soon as possible, and I beg you to go 
aboard for the live birds for him and for you. 

Present my respects to your good family, and believe me 
for ever 

Your faithful friend and 


I should be very happy if you would send me a good box 
of pastels, chosen by Mr. Belloc, the younger, at 2 c 3 Louis. 21 

John James Audubon to Claude Francois Rozier 

[Letter No. 7, addressed] 

Monsieur Fr. Rozier, 



Loire Inferieure. 

New York, July 19, 1807. 

Dear Sir: 

Mr. Benjamin Bakewell as well as myself have received your 
letters by the Comet, which had a passage of 42 days. We 
have at present in the warehouse a great part of the merchan- 
dise of the latter [vessel], and in good condition; Mr. B. B. 

21 One Louis was equal to twenty francs, or four dollars. 


appears to be satisfied ; he is about to send some teas that you 
have ordered from him. It has grieved me much to see him 
send a boat to Nantes, and not consigned to you, but his rea- 
sons were, I believe, so sound that I did not dare remonstrate. 
The agents of the house of Rossel and Boudet paid him the 
2/3 of the invoice, or a draft upon London for an equivalent 
sum, that neither Ferdinand nor I were authorized to do ; the 
latter is at Philadelphia. In a short time we are leaving for 
a voyage upon the Ohio, the details of which you will learn 
[from him], or from my father, and which I believe will be 
very advantageous to us. We hope to sell Mill Grove this 
autumn, which we shall do, however, only at a profit. We 
received this morning a letter from Mr. Fleury Emery, who 
urges Mr. B. B. to give him some shipments, but regarding 
this I do not know his intentions. I have also received a letter 
to-day from our friend, Fd, who is quite well, and longs to be 
doing something. 

Mr. Emery advises me of the receipt of a little box of seeds 
for my father and you. I think that your gardens are now 
embellished with foreign trees. 

Mr. B. B. is loading tea for you, a thing that gives me 
much pleasure. I am sending you a letter from Ferdinand that 
I received yesterday. Presenting you as well as your whole 
amiable family with humble respects, 
I continue to be 

your faithful servant, 


My regards, I pray to you, to my cousin, the younger. 

Audubon's loyalty to his kind-hearted employer is 
evident in every one of these amiable letters, yet it is 
plain that they were written upon his own initiative, and 
a merchant of today might seriously object to such a 
candid exposition of his dealings as young Audubon's 
friendly epistles occasionally revealed. 


The numerous references which these letters con- 
tain regarding the disposition of the "Mill Grove" farm 
may well puzzle the reader who has followed the story 
to this point; we must therefore attempt to unravel the 
tangled threads of this intricate affair. In the spring 
of 1807 Audubon, who was then anxious to start a 
"retail shop," complained that the land, which could not 
be sold to advantage, kept them short of capital and 
prevented them from dealing on so large a scale as 
they could wish. On the 24th of April he wrote that 
three weeks before he had gone to "Mill Grove" and 
closed an agreement for renting the property (evidently 
referring to the farm as distinct from the mine) for a 
year, being unable to do better, and that Ferdinand was 
then in Philadelphia trying to settle his father's accounts 
with Dacosta, who did not readily forget his trickster's 
role. In Audubon's letter of the same day, inclosed in 
the same packet with the request that it be delivered 
to his father, there is a similar reference, with the note 
that Ferdinand, who had charge of the settlement, had 
.chosen Mr. Huron as arbitrator, but that he would not 
agree unless honest Miers Fisher had a part in it. 
Finally, as late as the 19th of July of that year he 
wrote to Rozier, the elder, that they were hoping to sell 
"Mill Grove" in the autumn, but would do so only at a 
good profit; yet at this time the property had been 
out of their possession, technically at least, for nearly 
a year. 

Still more curious is this statement in Audubon's 
autobiography, 22 relating to the year 1813; "I bought a 
wild horse, and on its back travelled over Tennessee and 
a portion of Georgia, and so round till I finally reached 

22 Maria R. Audubon, Audubon and his Journals (Bibl. No. 86), vol. i, 
p. 32. 


Philadelphia, and then to your grandfather's at Fatland 
Ford. He had sold my plantation of Mill Grove to 
Samuel Wetherill, of Philadelphia, for a good round 
sum, and with this I returned through Kentucky and 
at last reached Henderson once more." 

When "Mill Grove" was conditionally sold to 
Dacosta and his mining company in September, 1806, 
he gave a mortgage and bond to Miers Fisher, who 
again became Lieutenant Audubon's agent. Many 
months elapsed before the necessary legal papers could 
arrive from France, and meanwhile Dacosta's year- 
ly accounts were contested, and gave no end of trou- 
ble. 23 

After operating the lead mine for five years, Da- 
costa's company failed, and "Mill Grove" again passed 
into other hands; it was finally sold to Samuel Wetherill 

23 Especially his account current, from June 1, 1806, to July 25, 1807, 
with the "Mill Grove" farm, and "John Audubon of Nantz," drawn up 
and signed at Philadelphia on the latter date. Dacosta then claimed a 
balance due him of $950.64 above the returns from farm and mine, of 
which he was entitled to one-half; this sum included his salary and 
numerous minor expenditures. When his account was contested and taken 
out of court for settlement, it was cut by the arbitrators to $530. See 
Appendix I, Document 11a. 

The following is a "copy of the Award given by John Laval & 
Laurence Huron appointed referees by Francis Dacosta and John Audubon 
the elder by a rule of reference in the Common Pleas of this county to 
have their differences in accounts settled:" 

"We the within named referees, having heard the parties and examined 
their respective accounts & vouchers, do award that there is due by the 
defendant, John Audubon the elder, to the plaintiff, Francis Dacosta, the 
sum of five hundred and thirty dollars, which we find to be the full 
balance of all current accounts between them, and we award that the 
said ballance be paid by the said John Audubon the elder to the said 
Francis Dacosta by defalking the same from the account of the condition 
of the Bond of Eight Hundred Dollars — mentioned in the within rule 
of reference conformably to the agreement endorsed on the said Bond." 

"Witness our hands Philadelphia 1st August, 1807." 

"Signed — Johx Laval." 

"Laurence Huron." 

(Copy of original MS., in possession of Mr. Welton H. Rozier.) 


in 1813. 24 If our inferences are correct, the mortgages 
by which the Audubon and Rozier interests were pro- 
tected were repeatedly transferred, and the first consid- 
erable amount of ready money that had appeared in the 
entire series of transactions was furnished by Mr. 
Wetherill. It is doubtful if Jean Audubon ever re- 
ceived any returns from his American farm after the 
advent of Dacosta in 1803. The ultimate failure of the 
lead mine was assuredly not the fault of this exploiter, 
but his dubious methods of accounting and probable 
failure to keep his contracts no doubt led the naturalist 
to denounce him as a swindler. 

It may be recalled that in their "Articles of Asso- 
ciation" Audubon and Rozier had agreed that the house 
at "Mill Grove" should be "an object separate from all 
business, in order that we may control this property as 
long as we desire," but the conditional sale to Dacosta 
apparently included the farmhouse as well as the land. 

Many of Audubon's references to "Mill Grove" 
were apparently wide of the mark, but viewed in the 
light which we have endeavored to shed upon this in- 
volved affair, they would be in harmony with the essen- 
tial truth; in writing to the elder Rozier, who became a 
partner in the enterprise, there was no motive which 
could have led him to depart from it.* 


24 In 1811 "Mill Grove" was conveyed by Francis Dacosta & Company, 
to Frederick Beates, who in 1813 sold it to Samuel Wetherill, Jr., for 
$7,000, the property having shrunk to less than one-half the value placed 
upon it in 1806. For the enterprises of the Wetherills, see Note, Vol. I, 
p. 102. 

""Since we have been obliged to enter rather minutely into the his- 
tory of "Mill Grove," in order to trace the relations of the Audubons to 
it in an important period of the naturalist's career, the reader may be 
interested in the anticlimax which its famous mines reached at a later 
day. The Ecton Consolidated Mining Company had been in operation 
at "Mill Grove" for a considerable period, when, in 1848, the Perkioming 
Association was formed and ten thousand dollars was at once invested 
in machinery. In 1851 these two companies were combined under the 


We will now return to the story of Audubon's life 
in New York. While he was supposed to be learning 
the exporting business with Benjamin Bakewell, his 
heart was in the woods and fields, and every hour that 
could be snatched from the counting-room found him 
in the pursuit of birds or drawing their portraits. He 
used the pencil and black crayon point combined with 
pastels, and while much of his artistic work at this time 
was hastily done, he was capable of producing excellent 
likenesses. A very delicate drawing of the Wood 
Thrush, signed with his initials, and dated at "Mill 
Grove, Pennsylvania, 14 aout, 1806," is numbered 209, 
showing that his collection of American birds was al- 
ready extensive, even if it did not include many that 
were well known. In the winter of 1806-7, while in 
New York, Audubon paid most attention to the water- 
fowl, frequently visiting the shore and the markets for 
his subjects. The sketches which he then made were 
all in full size, and, as an evidence of the rapidity with 
which he worked, it may be noticed that he would often 

name of the Perkioming Consolidated Mining Company, which issued 
50,000 shares of stock, at six dollars each, thus representing a capital of 
$300,000. A mining settlement quickly sprang up on Audubon's old farm, 
where numerous buildings of stone, a general store, and miners' houses 
were to be seen. In the first annual statement issued by this company, 
the buildings were said to represent an outlay of $15,000, while $140,000 
had been expended on machinery, both above and below ground. A Cornish 
expert, who was summoned from England, was paid $1,414 for a verbose 
report, the substance of which, it was said, was expressed in conveying 
the information, already known, that the "mineral mined is copper ore" 
(copper pyrite occurring in association with lead). This company closed 
its business in 1851, by assessing its stockholders one dollar a share, 
thus bringing the total loss in this final effort to $350,000, nearly one- 
third of which had been drawn from Philadelphia. After one, or two, 
further unsuccessful attempts had been made, all the substantial build- 
ings of the mining works became a quarry, from which stone was sold 
by the perch, the ruins of the old engine house alone remaining to this 
day as a witness of the follies of the generations that are gone. (This 
account is based upon reports which have appeared in the press of Philadel- 
phia or in other Pennsylvania newspapers.) 


complete two or more large drawings of ducks on the 
same day. New York at this time was a city of about 
75,000 people; Audubon said that by walking briskly 
he could pass from one end to the other in a few minutes. 
In the foregoing letters we have seen young Audu- 
bon sending seeds and live birds to his father and to 
Francois Rozier, and reptiles and dried plants to 
Charles d'Orbigny, and ordering for his own use the 
best drawing materials from France. While at New 
York he had the good fortune to become a friend and 
protege of the most distinguished naturalist of the me- 
tropolis, Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell, 26 eminent in many 
walks of life, and at that time a member of the United 
States Senate. Audubon prepared many birds and 
mammals for Dr. Mitchell's collections, and the friend- 
ship thus early formed proved of much service to him 
later. He was probably working for Dr. Mitchell when, 
as the story goes, some of his neighbors lodged a com- 
plaint with the municipal authorities on account of the 
strong odors that habitually issued from his workroom, 
and a constable was sent to investigate. 

26 Samuel Latham Mitchell (1764-1831), physician, naturalist, politician 
and voluminous writer on many subjects. In 1797 he founded, in asso- 
ciation with Dr. Edward Miller and Dr. Elihu H. Smith, the New York 
Medical Repository, and was its chief editor. He began also, at the 
University of New York, one of the earliest collections in natural history, 
and in 1817 appealed to the Historical Society of his city for the founda- 
tion of a Zoological Museum; in the same year he organized the Lyceum 
of Natural History, and was its first president, Joseph Le Conte serving 
as corresponding secretary, and John Torrey as one of its curators. On 
April 9, the following subjects were assigned to different members for in- 
vestigation, "Ichthyology or fishes, Plaxology or crustaceous animals, 
Apalology or mollusca, and Geology or the earth" being reserved for the 
president; Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (see Chapter XIX) took charge 
of "Helmintology or worms, Polypoligy or polyps, Atmology or Meteorology, 
Hydrology or waters, and Taxodomy or classification;" John Torrey, who 
became a distinguished botanist, was more modest, and assumed charge only 
of "Entomology or insects;" while to John Le Conte were given 
"Mastodology or mammalia, Erpetology or reptiles, and Glossology or 
nomenclature." See the American Monthly Magazine and Critical Review 
(New York) for August, 1817, p. 272. 


Audubon remained in New York as late as August 
22, 1807, for on that day he made a drawing of the 
"Sprig-tail Duck," but without doubt he had come to 
feel the incongruity of his position in a business to 
which his heart was a stranger. As an instance of his 
preoccupation at this time, he confesses to have once 
forwarded but forgot to seal a letter containing $8,000. 
If Benjamin Bakewell failed to make a business man 
out of Audubon, it was not from lack of kindness, and 
probably no one else would have been more successful. 
As it happened, Audubon did not leave his employer 
any too soon, for at the close of 1807 Benjamin Bake- 
well's exporting business was ruined by the Embargo 
Act, through which President Jefferson had hoped to 
bring Great Britain and France to terms by cutting off 
their American trade, and for a year or more his estate 
was in the hands of creditors for settlement. 

The naturalist has left a characteristic sketch of 
himself at this time: "I measured," said he, "five feet, 
ten and one half inches, was of fair mien, and quite a 
handsome figure; large, dark, and rather sunken eyes, 
light-colored eyebrows, aquiline nose and a fine set of 
teeth ; hair, fine texture and luxuriant, divided and pass- 
ing down behind each ear in luxuriant ringlets as far 
as the shoulders." The habit of wearing his hair long, 
thus early acquired and later favored by his wandering 
mode of life, appears to have lasted more than twenty 



Child and man — His ideals, perseverance and progress — Study under David 
at Paris — David's pupils and studios — David at Nantes arouses the 
enthusiasm of its citizens — His part in the Revolution — His art and 
influence over Audubon — Audubon's drawings of French birds — Story 
of the Edward Harris collection — The Birds of America in the bud — 
Audubon's originality, style, methods, and mastery of materials and 
technique — His problem and how he solved it — His artistic defects. 

Audubon began to draw birds and other animals 
when a child, and, like most children, was ready to be- 
lieve that his crude sketches were finished pictures if 
only they possessed some sort of a head, a tail, and sticks 
in place of legs. But, unlike the majority of youth, he 
went direct to nature for his subjects, and his "family 
of cripples" failed to satisfy him long. He gradually 
developed a high ideal, and at an early age felt stirring 
within him the impulse and the power to express it. 
On stated anniversaries his masterpieces, he tells us, 
were burned, in spite of the praise and flattery they had 
evoked ; he would then exert all his powers to do better, 
and this commendable practice was kept up for years. 

In this respect the child was father of the man, for 
on the 5th of March, 1822, when Audubon was living 
in New Orleans, too poor to buy even a blank-book for 
a journal, he thus wrote of his work during the pre- 
vious months: "Every moment I had to spare I drew 
birds for my ornithology, in which my Lucy and myself 
alone have faith. February was spent in drawing birds 



strenuously, and I thought I had improved by apply- 
ing coats of water-color under the pastels, thereby pre- 
venting the appearance of the paper, that in some in- 
stances marred my best productions. I discovered also 
many imperfections in my earlier drawings, and formed 
the resolution to redraw the whole of them." Seldom 
satisfied with the results attained, he kept up this labori- 
ous process of revision and selection by which he ap- 
proached more closely to his ideal, the truth of living na- 
ture, for more than forty years, until, in fact, the last 
plates of his Birds of America came from the press in 
England in 1838. An examination of the originals of 
those plates today x proves that many of their defects 
were inevitably caused by the makeshifts to which he 
was sometimes forced by lack of time. 

Audubon has credited his father with the only judi- 
cious criticism which he ever received at the youthful 
stage of his art. "He was so kind to me," said the son, 
"that to have listened lightly to his words would have 
been highly ungrateful. I listened less to others and 
more to him, and his words became my law." When he 
was about seventeen years old, or probably not far 
from the year 1802, 2 he was sent to Paris to study draw- 
ing under Jacques Louis David, the acknowledged 
leader of French art during the period of the Revolu- 
tion. This popular artist, who had uttered fierce invec- 
tives against "the last five despots of France," became 
nevertheless court painter under Napoleon; like 
many another Conventional regicide, he was destined 

1 See Vol. I, p. 185. 

2 Cuvier stated in his report on Audubon's Birds, delivered at the 
Academy of Sciences, Paris, September 22, 1828, that the author had been 
twenty-five years before a pupil in the school of David. This would 
place the date in 1803, but earlier than the autumn of that year, when 
Audubon started for America. See Note, Vol. I, p. 99. 

NO. ()•'>."' 

Published by courtesy of Mr. Joseph Y. Jeanes. 


to end his career as an exile from France, and died in 
Brussels in 1825. 

Audubon has said but little of this Paris experience, 
but he remarked: "At the age of seventeen when I re- 
turned from France, whither I had gone to receive the 
rudiments of my education, my drawings had assumed 
a form. David had guided my hand in tracing objects 
of large size." 3 An interesting sidelight is thrown upon 
this incident by the fact that, not many years before, 
David had been warmly welcomed in the city of Nantes, 
when it is not unlikely that the naturalist's father was 
one of the throng of citizens who made his acquaintance. 
The occasion to which I refer was so noteworthy in the 
annals of Audubon's paternal city as to make a digres- 
sion at this point of our narrative inevitable. In March, 
1790, Daniel de Kervegan, a wealthy merchant who was 
then serving his second term as mayor, had aroused so 
much enthusiasm by his public spirit and sterling char- 
acter that the citizens had voted the sum of 300 livres, 
or about $60, for his portrait, to be executed in oils 
and placed in one of their public buildings. The com- 
mission was offered to David, who accepted it, and with 
such enthusiasm did he set to work, that upon reaching 
Nantes he asked the privilege of paying his respects 
to the Municipal Assembly, which was in session. Upon 
being admitted to the Chamber, on the 24th of March, 
he expressed these sentiments : 

If ever my art has brought me any gratification, or any 
success, never before have I had better excuse for boastful- 

I have made it a duty to respond to the worthy invitations, 
inspired by patriotism and gratitude, that hallow this most 
timely and most astounding revolution. 

3 Ornithological Biography (Bibl. No. 2), vol. i, p. viii. 


It is your work, gentlemen, and the respect which you render 
to the chief of your administration which speaks in praise of 
your sentiments and virtues and which will transmit their 
memory, along with your glory, to posterity. 4 

David worked on this portrait for about a month, 
and on April 23, before his departure for Paris, he 
asked the privilege of again addressing the Assembly. 
Not only was the request granted, but he was publicly 
thanked for the trouble he had taken in coming to their 
city, and a committee was appointed to express the 
sentiments of esteem with which he had inspired the 
whole community. We may add that David seems to 
have taken this canvas to his studio in Paris, where it 
was subsequently lost or destroyed in the period of 
turbulence that followed. 

David's radical speeches from the tribune, added to 
his popularity as an artist, no doubt brought him pupils 
in plenty from every quarter of republican France. 
Young Audubon was probably admitted to the most 
elementary class, for he received no instruction in the 
use of oils but was directed to study the rudiments of 
drawing from the cast. As he had hoped to perfect 
himself in the art of depicting animals, he was disap- 
pointed. "Eyes and noses belonging to giants," he 
said, "and heads of horses, represented in ancient sculp- 
ture, were my models." He also spoke of drawing 
"heads and figures in different colored chalks," and of 
"tolerable figures" obtained by use of the manikin, but 
adds: "These, although fit subjects for men intent on 
pursuing the higher branches of the art, were immedi- 

*F. T. Verger, Archives curieuses de la ville de Nantes et des 
dtpartements de Vouest (Nantes, 1837-41); for further references to David 
in this chapter I am mainly indebted to Georges Cain, Le Long des 
Rues (Paris, 1812), and Charles Saunier, Louis David (Paris, no date). 


ately laid aside by me"; yet he "returned to the woods 
of the New World with fresh ardor," 5 and there began 
a series of drawings which were later published. 

While this is virtually all that has been recorded of 
this incident in Audubon's career, a number of inter- 
esting facts might be added which throw light upon 
the surroundings of his life at Paris while under the 
tuition of this master. At that time David was enjoy- 
ing the privilege, accorded to eminent artists from an 
early day, of living with his family and of having his 
studios in special quarters set apart for the purpose in 
the palace of the Louvre; this was continued until all 
the artist tenants were turned out by one of Napoleon's 
peremptory orders in 1806. David's principal studio 
was at the corner of the Quai de Louvre and the square, 
facing the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois, at a 
point occupied in the present structure by the grand 
staircase leading to the Egyptian Gallery. It was here 
that his more advanced pupils studied; the appearance 
of its interior, with his pupils at work, as well as the 
view from one of its windows, by means of which its 
exact position can be determined, may be seen today 
in the interesting painting by Matthew Cochereau. 
This small picture, first exhibited in the salon of 1814, 
now hangs in the Louvre in company with some of the 
finest of David's works, and immediately beneath his 
huge canvas representing the coronation of Napoleon. 
Over his principal room David had also a private studio, 
and at one time he had another on the Quai, opposite 
the Institute of France, while his numerous pupils occu- 
pied a series of rooms, one above another, not remote 

5 The implication as to time, which is repeated above, contradicts an 
earlier statement, which is probably more nearly correct, for when Audubon 
returned to America in 1806 he was twenty-one. 


from the first. Access to these apartments was gained 
from the street by means of a spiral stairway, the open- 
ing of which may still be seen in the Egyptian Hall. 

It is common to speak of this gifted man as if he 
alone had stifled all the art of the eighteenth century 
in France, as if he were the molder of his age and not 
a part of it. Too often has he been judged on the 
basis of a few, unfortunately conspicuous, theatrical 
pieces, while his excellent portraits, of which there are 
many, entitle him to the gratitude of posterity. 
Buchanan remarked that the mannerism of David could 
"still be traced in certain pedantries discernible in 
Audubon's style of drawing," which is a fancy without 
any basis in fact. If it could be shown that drawing 
from the casts of antique statues could develop man- 
nerisms in the careful delineation of birds and mammals, 
it would still appear that Audubon's style was really 
formed at a later period. 

This brief Paris episode, which at most could have 
lasted but a few months, represented all the formal 
instruction which Audubon ever received in drawing, 
although he enjoyed some private tuition at a much 
later day. As to the sciences now embraced in biology, 
that is, zoology and botany, which would have been 
most useful to him, the score was blank; even books on 
any of these subjects were rare in America at the be- 
ginning of the nineteenth century. 

When Audubon first came to the United States, he 
brought with him all his drawings of French birds, and 
a few pieces which may belong to this early period have 
been described. 6 Done in a combination of crayon and 
water color, they represent a European Magpie, a Coot 

9 See R. W. Shufeldt, in The Auk and the Audubonian Magazine 
(Bibliography, Nos. 184 and 190). 


and a Green Woodpecker, the latter especially, which 
bore the number "96," showing evidence of care and 
skill. The year passed at "Mill Grove" was not par- 
ticularly fruitful, but during the Coueron visit which 
followed in 1805 and 1806, Audubon said that he made 
drawings of "about two hundred species of birds," all 
of which he brought to America and gave to his Lucy. 
After finally reaching this country in the latter year, 
these studies were continued, with an alacrity that sel- 
dom failed, until 1822, when he began to revise much 
of his earlier work, substituting water colors more com- 
pletely for pastels, pencil and crayon point. 

In writing to Bachman in 1836, Audubon thus 
referred to the work of his apprenticeship: 'Some of 
my early drawings of European birds are still in our 
possession, but many have been given away, and the 
greatest number were destroyed, not by the rats that 
gnawed my collection of the 'Birds of America,' but 
by the great fire." 7 When the naturalist was in Phila- 
delphia in 1824, in search of a publisher and sadly in 
need of funds, he made the acquaintance of Edward 
Harris, 8 who looked at the drawings he had for sale 
and said at once that he would take them all and at 
Audubon's own prices. Upon his leaving that city, this 
generous friend, we are told, pressed a $100 bill in his 
hand, saying: "Mr. Audubon, accept this from me; 
men like you ought not to want for money." "I could 
only express my gratitude," continues the naturalist, 
"by insisting on his receiving the drawings of all my 
French birds." The worthy Harris cherished this large 
series of Audubon's early studies and added to it many 
specimens of his later work. The entire collection re- 

7 Referring to the fire of 1835, in New York. 

8 See Chapter XXI. 


mained in his family unbroken and unimpaired until 
1892. 9 

This beautiful and unique collection, which repre- 
sents The Birds of America in the bud, illustrates the 
development of Audubon's art from about 1800 or a 
little later to 1821, 10 and clearly shows that the fuller 
mastery which he attained after the latter date was 
manifested in no small degree at a much earlier period. 
His drawings of the Wood Thrush (1806), the Whip- 
poorwill and Kingfisher (1810), the Carolina Parrot 
(1811), and the Nighthawk (1812), though detached 
and less ambitious as pictures, for truth of line and deli- 
cacy of finish would compare favorably with the best of 
his later work. After 1820 his ability had so far out- 
stripped his ambition that there was needed only the 
stimulus of a powerful motive and a well defined plan 
to bring his powers into full fruition at once. A little 
later, when he began to revise, enrich and standardize 
all of his previous work, he used the brush and water 
colors more freely than ever before. Hundreds of his 
earlier studies were cast aside; many, to be sure, were 

9 When it passed into the equally worthy hands of Mr. Joseph Y. 
Jeanes, of Philadelphia. Mr. Jeanes purchased from the estate of Mr. 
Edward Harris, 2d, directly or indirectly, and at different times, about 
110 of these early originals; others were dispersed, four of early date 
being in the Museum of Harvard University. Mr. Jeanes also possesses 
a large section of the Audubon-Harris correspondence, which extended 
over nearly a quarter of a century, and of which little has been pub- 
lished; to his kindness I am indebted for the privilege of reproducing 
some of the drawings, as well as numerous extracts from the letters, 
in the present work. 

10 Audubon said that some of the originals of The Birds of America were 
"made as long ago as 1805," which may well have been the case, but 
the earliest date which has been preserved on the drawings is that of 
July 1, 1808, for "Rathbone's Warbler," later recognized as an imma- 
ture form of the Summer Warbler. The Carbonated Warbler was drawn 
May 7, 1811. Seven bear the date of 1812, namely: Yellow-rumped 
Warbler, April 22; Le petit Caporal, April 23; Wood Pewee, April 28; 
Blackburnian and Bay-breasted Warblers, May 12; Chestnut-sided Warbler, 
May 17; and Cuvier's Wren, June 8. 


hastily drawn in pastel, crayon and pencil, and had not 
time failed him at the end, nothing of his earlier Ameri- 
can period would have remained in the final product. 

Nearly all of these rejected drawings bear serial 
numbers, which from the lack of sequence now observed, 
show that they were subject to constant change and 
that their total number must have been great. All bear 
the scientific and common names in French or English 
or both, and many are signed with the artist's initials 
or name; besides giving the place and date, in some 
cases the weights and measurements of his subjects are 
added, with detailed sketches of foot, bill, or eggs. 11 

A large crayon sketch of a groundhog, in excellent 
drawing, is labeled "Marmotte de sauvage, No. 159, le 
6 juin, 1805." The Redstart, executed in August of 
the same year, is a good example of Audubon's more 
delicate early work; it shows also the attention which 
he was then beginning to pay to accessories, his bird 
being perched on a spray of ripening blackberries. The 
Wagtail, on the other hand, was a rough crayon sketch, 
dashed off on December 22 of the same year. A pencil 
and crayon drawing of the Mountain Titmouse, which 
is a European bird, was probably made from a captive, 
and at sea, since it bears the date of January 22, 1805, 
when Audubon was, I believe, aboard the Hope. 12 The 
latest of these French pieces, designated "No. 94. 
Woodpecker, le 8 mars, 1806. pres Nantes; 12 
to the tail," was executed about a month before the 
naturalist finally left France with Rozier to settle per- 
manently in the United States. The excellence of such 

11 For a list of Audubon's early dated drawings see Appendix II. 
Through the courtesy of Mr. Jeanes, I am able to reproduce a fuller series 
of Audubon's early drawings of French and American birds than has hith- 
erto been published, and have chosen the subjects to illustrate the develop- 
ment of his style. 

12 See Vol. I, p. 125. 


a drawing as that of the Wood Thrush (1806) is in 
marked contrast to the more ambitious "Fish Hawk or 
Osprey, A. Willson, Perkioming Creek, 1809," in which 
the bird holds a white sucker in its talons but is less 
happily rendered. Nine large pastels of waterfowl and 
two smaller pieces, representing a Robin and Brown 
Thrush, in the same style, are good examples of Audu- 
bon's cruder efforts of that time ; they were merely hur- 
ried sketches or practice work, with no attempt to finish 
with all the perfection of detail of which he was then 

In a full-size pastel of the Black Surf or Velvet 
Duck, drawn on December 28, 1806, and signed "J. J. 
L. Audubon," the note is added: "the only specimen of 
the kind I have ever seen." He became well acquainted 
with the Velvet Ducks, now better known as the White- 
winged Scoters, and in his account of the species says: 
"As we approached the shores of Labrador, we found 
the waters covered with dense flocks of these birds, and 
yet they continued to arrive there from the St. Law- 
rence for several days in succession. We were all as- 
tonished at their numbers which were such that we 
could not help imagining that all the Velvet Ducks in 
the world were passing before us." 13 

Several of these drawings are credited to "The Falls 
of the Ohio," as the rapids of this river at Louisville 
were then generally called; a number to "Red Banks," 
the old name of Henderson, Kentucky; while five were 
done in Pennsylvania, probably when Audubon was at 
the home of his father-in-law, William Bakewell, in the 
spring of 1812. An excellent drawing of the Chuck 
Wills Widow was probably made on the Red River, 14 in 

n Ornithological Biography (Bibl. No. 2), vol. i, p. 354. 
14 See Appendix II. 

early unpublished drawing of the groundhog: "jiarmotte de savage, i.e 

6 juin, 1805, no. 159." 

Published by courtesy of Mr. Joseph Y. Jeanes. 


Published by courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History, 

New York. 


Arkansas, when Audubon was exploring that country 
and slowly making his way to New Orleans in June, 

1821, though it should be noticed that a steamboat on 
which he sometimes traveled was called the Red River. 

Audubon began in the usual way, by representing 
his birds in profile, and often on a simple perch, but 
gradually introduced accessories which eventually be- 
came such an important part of his plan that, after 

1822, his plates took on more the character of balanced 
pictures, literally teeming with the characteristic fruits 
and flowers of America, as well as with insects and 
animals of every sort, suggestive of the food and sur- 
roundings of his subjects, not to speak of American 
landscapes drawn from many parts of the country. 

Dissatisfied with the older methods of drawing birds 
in the stereotyped attitudes of most stuffed specimens, 
Audubon made many experiments at "Mill Grove" be- 
fore hitting upon what he called his "method" of using 
wires to pierce and hold the body of the bird in any 
attitude which he desired to represent. His device, 
which was simple only for one who possessed the requi- 
site knowledge and skill, was publicly exhibited at a 
meeting of the Wernerian Society at Edinburgh on 
December 16, 1826. A recently killed bird was fixed in 
the position desired by means of wires, and placed 
against a background ruled with division lines in squares 
to correspond with similar lines on Audubon's paper. 
The parts, measured if necessary with compasses, were 
then drawn in, and every part was rendered in due pro- 
portion. As to the difficulty of thus securing natural 
attitudes, aside from any question of draughtsmanship, 
we have only to recall the bungling work of most taxi- 
dermists; there are careful students of animal life who 
are able to reanimate their subjects, even when reduced 


to dried and mounted skins, but such ability is not easy 
to acquire or impart. Method is always subordinate to 
power, and Audubon at his best, when not hampered by 
lack of time, was able to represent the living, moving 
bird in a hundred attitudes never attempted before, 
which surprised the world of his day by the remarkable 
skill, freshness and fidelity they displayed. 

Some have complained that Audubon, in striving 
for effect, too often exaggerated the action of his sub- 
jects; his birds, like the Frenchman he was, gesticulate 
too much, while Wilson's were more cautious or sedate, 
as became a canny Scot. The complaint may be well 
founded, but the explanation is too trivial for serious 
consideration. Wilson, like his predecessors, regardless 
of nationality, merely followed custom, which led by 
the path of least resistance. Barraband and all the best 
French artists before him in depicting bird and animal 
life had done the same, and in their hands the perch, 
were the subject a bird, became stereotyped to the last 
degree, as if inserted with a rubber stamp. Audubon 
followed the same course until he became imbued with 
the desire of endowing his animals with all the moving 
energy of which they were capable, whether in seizing 
their prey, feeding their young, or fighting their ene- 
mies. It is well known that many an animal, though 
ordinarily cautious or even timid, can be roused to vig- 
orous action under the spur of emotion, as when its 
young are suddenly threatened, and be it warbler, blue- 
bird, or cuckoo, may become a contortionist at a mo- 
ment's notice. Very few of the 1,065 life-size drawings of 
birds which appear in his large plates could be truly 
described as fantastic or unnatural. 

Audubon's problem was rendered more difficult by 
the fact that all of his animals were drawn to the size 


of life, and because his desire and style compelled him 
to represent the utmost detail, even to the barbs of a 
feather or the individual hairs of a mammal. When a 
landscape was to be included it was not an easy task 
to harmonize life-sized objects in the foreground with 
receding objects, and here he sometimes failed. Some 
of his least happy compositions, however, were the re- 
sult of haste, as an examination of the originals of his 
Birds of A merica has clearly shown ; when hard pressed 
for time he would resort to the scissors and paste, in 
order to combine the parts of several distinct drawings 
into one plate, and often leave the backgrounds to be 
supplied entirely by the engraver. One of the few 
grotesque results of such methods is seen in plate 141, 
wherein are represented the Goshawk and the Stanley 
Hawk; the latter, which was originally designed for 
different surroundings, has quite lost its center of grav- 
ity on an islet amid stream. An early reviewer thought 
that the artist must surely have intended this for a cari- 
cature, as in the case of one of Hogarth's famous prints, 
in which a man on a distant hill is lighting his pipe at a 
candle held out of a window in the foreground. 

The action of Audubon's subjects was sometimes ex- 
aggerated; his birds on the wing were occasionally ill 
drawn, and other defects might be mentioned. But we 
must admire his boldness for attempting so many dif- 
ficult positions, and admit that, when all is considered, 
he succeeded to admiration, and set a new standard for 
the illustration of works on natural history. 




Audubon and Rozier decide to start a pioneer store at Louisville, Ken- 
tucky — Their purchase of goods in New York — "Westward Ho" with 
Rozier — Rozier's diary of the journey — An unfortunate investment in 
indigo— Effect of the Embargo Act— Marriage to Lucy Bakewell— 
Return to Louisville — Life on the Ohio — Depression of trade — 
William Bakewell's assistance— Audubon's eldest son born at the 
"Indian Queen"— The Bake wells— Life at Louisville. 

In the summer of 1807 Audubon and Rozier had 
decided to try their fortunes in the West, which then 
meant the Ohio Valley and the wilds of Kentucky, and 
had fixed upon Louisville as a promising point for 
pioneer trade. On August 1 they purchased a consid- 
erable stock of goods through the commission house of 
their friend, Benjamin Bakewell, and three days later 
gave their note, payable in eight months, for over 
$3,600. 1 Then, or a little later, they had dealings also 
with Messrs. Robert Kinder & Company, of New York, 
as well as the French importing house of Laurence 
Huron, with which Ferdinand had been recently asso- 
ciated in Philadelphia; apparently also they sent goods 
to Francois Rozier at Nantes, and from him received 
imports through the Bakewell firm, but, as we shall see, 
all foreign trade was soon cut off. When their plans 
were complete and their goods had started for the fron- 
tier, they set out themselves for Louisville on the last 
day of August, 1807. __ 

1 See Appendix I, Document No. 11. 



Ferdinand Rozier kept a record 2 of this journey, 
the formidable nature of which will be best appreciated 
by reading his matter-of-fact narrative composed from 
notes daily jotted down. In these easy-going times, 
when oceans and continents are crossed with ever in- 
creasing ease and speed, this simple chronicle of early 
travel in America is worth preserving, if only for its 
historical contrasts. 

On the thirty-first day of August, 1807, in company with 
Audubon, I left Mill Grove for Louisville, Kentucky, where 
we anticipated engaging in the mercantile business. 

Leaving Philadelphia by stage we traveled to Lancaster, 
Pennsylvania, a distance of sixty-one miles, where we arrived 
at four o'clock in the afternoon ; we dined, and proceeded to 
Big Chickers, distant nine miles farther, where we spent the 
night. The roads from Philadelphia to Lancaster were in ex- 
cellent condition, and at about every two miles we found good 
taverns. The only remarkable thing we noticed in agriculture 
was hemp, there being little else of interest. The city of Lan- 
caster was attractive, but the short duration of our stay pre- 
vented us from having more than a casual view of it. The 
tavern where we slept was not very good ; from our chambers, 

2 This diary was first brought to my attention by Mr. Ruthven Deane, 
and for permission to reproduce it I am indebted to the kindness of a 
great-grandson of Ferdinand, Mr. Welton A. Rozier, of Saint Louis. Mr. 
Rozier writes that the original French notes have been mislaid or lost, 
but that they were closely followed in this translation, whenever com- 
plete. Though numerous verbal changes have been made in the present 
draft, these have not altered the meaning in any respect. Ferdinand 
Rozier' s narrative begins as follows: 

"I left Nantes, France, in company with John James Audubon, on 
Saturday, the 12th day of April, 1806, bound for the city of New York, 
U. S. A., on an American ship named the Polly, commanded by Captain 
Sammis, and arrived at New York on Tuesday, the 27th day of May. 
While on the voyage across the ocean our vessel was stopped, overhauled, 
searched, and robbed by an English privateer, named the Rattlesnake, which 
detained us a day and a night. 

"We remained in New York City for a few days, and then removed 
to Mill Grove, on Pickering [Perkioming] Creek, in Pennsylvania, a tract 
of land owned by our fathers, and at that time thought to contain valu- 
able minerals." 


however, we could discern a new bridge, which had two im- 
mense arches spanning the river. 

At eight o'clock in the morning we left Lancaster for Eliza- 
bethtown, distant nine miles. The roads were miserable, and 
we suffered a severe jolting and shaking up. Arriving there, we 
procured two additional horses, which made six all told, and 
went on to Middletown, where we breakfasted at a tavern named 
the "Eagle" ; the village was small, with few houses, and noth- 
ing of interest. 

Journeying on to Harrisburg without mishap, over roads 
somewhat improved, we finally arrived, and discovered a very 
beautiful river called the Susquehanna. The city of Harris- 
burg itself appeared very attractive to us, and its situation 
is beautiful; proceeding, we were first compelled to cross the 
river, which was accomplished by means of a large flatboat 
propelled by a sweep of generous proportions. The captain, 
who proved a most voluble person, informed us that the river 
abounded in fish, and then related marvelous tales of the re- 
markable catches that had been made; many of his stories, 
however, were of such glaring improbability that we were forced 
to doubt his veracity. 

Carlisle, sixteen miles distant, was reached in due course, 
and there we changed horses at a tavern called the "John 
Mason." This city, though small, presented a fine appear- 
ance, having a market place, two large churches, many brick 
buildings, a large academy, and several attractive taverns. 
Continuing, we finally came to Walnut Bottoms, where we en- 
gaged chambers at a very imposing tavern ; this proved far 
superior to any we had hitherto visited ; it was clean and in- 
viting; its appointments were good, and its service excellent. 
On our journey we were impressed by a tree of great size, that 
resembled an oak, but upon inquiry learned that it was called 
Hackberry, 3 and produced a fruit similar in size to a cherry. 
On the north and south of us were high mountains which pre- 

3 In the rich bottom-lands of the Ohio River basin the hackberry or 
sugarberry (Celtis occidentalis) sometimes exceeds one hundred feet in 
height, and has a diameter of from four to five feet. 


sented an imposing appearance; the foliage was heavy and 
luxuriant; the soil of the foot-hills appeared fertile, but the 
crops were inferior. 

We were awakened early in the morning so as to begin 
our journey in good season, and having had a heavy storm 
during the night we expected to find the roads very bad, but to 
our delight they were none the worse for the rain. Journeying 
most of the way through woods, we came to Shipensburg and 
breakfasted ; this village had only one long street, and pre- 
sented an appearance far from pleasing. A lady with her sock 
[knitting work] proved a great talker and asked us many ques- 
tions. This village was intersected by a creek, called the Mid- 
dlespring. We next came to Chambersburg, ten miles away, 
and there rested and purchased tickets for continuing our jour- 
ney. That village lies in a valley, and is composed of two 
squares containing a post office, an academy, a factory, mar- 
ket place and tavern. 

When the stage was at last made ready for its journey 
we took our places in it, but no sooner was the village left be- 
hind than we encountered very rough roads, which for a time 
caused great discomfort ; our feelings were expressed by all the 
passengers, but at length we reached a tavern named "Cable 
Roussed," where our horses were changed. We next stopped 
at the "John Campbell" tavern, and saw many drunkards 
about ; then at "Peter White's," almost at the foot of the moun- 
tains, where we were each treated to a glass of excellent fresh 
milk. Still going on and approaching the mountains, the roads 
became so excessively rough that Audubon and myself decided 
to proceed on foot. Though this was a three-mile climb, we 
managed to cover it in three and a half hours. So bad in 
truth was the road that it seemed well nigh impossible for any 
vehicle to ascend the mountain ; the stage did go up, however, 
and reached the summit soon after us. On the heights of the 
mountain was a small tavern where refreshments were served, 
and while partaking of a light lunch there we were waited on 
by a couple named Currie, and James, their hired man. While 
we were refreshing ourselves, our host told harrowing tales of 


wild-animal hunting in the mountains, and assured us that there 
were many beasts in the surrounding woods. Leaving the sum- 
mit in the stage, we continued for some distance, but the jolt- 
ing, rolling and swaying was so frightful that we decided to 
descend on foot. The three miles down the mountain was cov- 
ered quickly, but we were utterly worn out with fatigue when 
we reached McConnelsburg; this village lies in a valley, has 
few houses and but little of interest ; we made forty miles dur- 
ing the day. Leaving early on the next morning, after travel- 
ing thirty-two miles, over better roads, we spent the night at 
the tavern of B. Mastin. 

Having breakfasted at an early hour, we were again on 
our way by sunrise, and after driving two miles came to the 
Juniata River, which was crossed in a leaky flatboat. Eight 
miles beyond this point we saw a very fine and stately mansion 
which was said to belong to a Mrs. Haily. Finally after a 
hard and tiresome day we arrived at Bedford. The Juniata 
River flows along Bedford in a narrow bed, between high moun- 
tain walls ; the village is situated in the valley, and boasts many 
fine stores and residences. We were told that about fourteen 
miles farther on there were mineral springs, the waters of which 
possessed great curative properties, and that many people 
visited them each season; time, however, did not permit us to 
visit this resort. 

Six horses were hitched to our stage when we departed the 
next morning. The mountain roads ascended more gradually, 
and were less rough ; the weather being exceptionally fine, forty 
miles were easily made before reaching our destination at a 
village called Somerset, which contained a courthouse that 
marked it at once as the county seat. At four o'clock of the 
morning following we were again on our way, and left Somerset 
in a heavy fog, which at that early hour sharply accentuated 
the chill in the air. At the end of the day we found ourselves 
at Laurel Hill, where we passed the night at the tavern of John 

Again at four in the morning we resumed our journey, and 
after crossing Laurel Creek once more encountered rough 


roads, but soon reached a tavern called the "Jacob Hoff ," where 
we breakfasted. Still pushing forward, at noon we came to the 
small house of a family called Margennefs, and procured a 
meager lunch. At a short distance from this place a change 
of horses was made, and after driving all the afternoon we 
entered the attractive village of Greensburg, where we spent 
the night. Rising reluctantly at peep of day, we continued 
on our course and made ten miles before breakfasting at a 
tavern, the "Stewart Auberge" by name. After leaving this 
point we came to Turtle Creek, when the road descended so 
abruptly that it was decided to dismount and walk, but the 
heat was sultry and oppressive, and we suffered greatly. At 
last, however, the city of Pittsburgh was reached, and there 
we found good and commodious lodgings at the Jefferson Hotel, 
conducted by Mr. Galland, a most genial and agreeable host. 
We remained in Pittsburgh several days, and became ac- 
quainted with many of its citizens, among whom were several 
countrymen of ours who were engaged in business and were 
very congenial and hospitable. The city does not present a 
pleasing appearance ; it has been increasing in size with astound- 
ing rapidity, 4 and possesses a remarkable commerce; the Ohio 
River there is most beautiful. 

The remainder of our journey was by way of the Ohio, 
and we made it entirely in an open flatboat, a cumbersome un- 
wieldy craft, managed by hand, and in this particular instance 
very badly. One who has never had this experience can little 
understand the terrible monotony, hardships and deprivations 
encountered on a long journey such as we endured. We were 
unprotected from the elements, and our beds consisted of bare 
pine boards, upon which we slept as best we could, enveloped 
in our great coats. 

There were times without number when our boat would 
run upon hidden sand bars to become grounded, and we were 
then often obliged to get into the cold water and assist in the 
work of extricating her. At other times, unprotected' as we 

>■ — -- ■ ■ ■ — — ■— ., ■ . ■■ 

*The population of the second city of Pennsylvania in 1800 was 1,565; 
in 1840, 4,768; and in 1910, after the annexation of Allegheny, 533,905. 


were, the rains drenched us to the skin, and our clothing was 
so saturated that it took many hours to dry. At night when 
it was clear, we continued our course down the river, but, in 
bad weather, or when very cloudy and dark, we were obliged 
to tie up to the shore, frequently to the bank of some wild, 
uninhabited island, and wait there for daylight ; then we would 
resume our slow, tedious and seemingly never ending journey. 
Added to these hardships, our boat was commanded by a most 
disagreeable and ungentlemanly captain, named Harris; his 
language, and demeanor marked him as a person of low birth 
and bad character. 

Among some of the places which were passed en route, I 
remember the following: Wheeling, Marietta, Market Slough, 
famous for the conspiracy of Colonel Burr, Belleville, Litards 
Falls, Point Pleasant, Manchester, Maysville, Cincinnati, and 
finally our journey's end, Louisville. 

At Louisville the partners were attracted by the 
country and its prospects, as well as by the hospitable 
character of the people. Their choice, as they then 
thought, had been well made, and they decided to make 
it their future home. "We marked Louisville," said 
Audubon, "as a spot designed by nature to become a 
place of great importance, and had we been as wise as 
we now are, I might never have published The Birds of 
America; for a few hundred dollars laid out, at that 
period, in lands or town lots near Louisville, would, if 
left to grow over with grass to a date ten years past 
[this being 1835], have become an immense fortune, but 
young heads are on young shoulders; it was not to be, 
and who cares." 5 

Rozier did not say when either they or their goods 
reached the pioneer settlement, but from an item in 

5 Maria R. Audubon, Audubon, and his Journals (Bibl. No. 86), 
vol. i, p. 28. 


their account current with the Bakewell house, 6 it is evi- 
dent that they opened a retail shop in Louisville at 
once, for on September 29 they were charged with $57 
for an order of powder horns and shotbags. In the 
same record there is a more interesting entry under date 
of December 31, 1807: "advanced per [sailing packet] 
Jane, for indigo and expences . . . $1,516.43," ordered 
evidently through Mr. Bakewell, presumably for export 
to France. This incident Audubon must have had in 
mind when in after life he wrote: "The mercantile busi- 
ness did not suit me. The very first venture which I 
undertook was in indigo; it cost me several hundred 
pounds, the whole of which was lost." It may be re- 
called that in his letter of April 24 of this year, Audubon 
wrote Francois Rozier 7 that the Bakewell house had 
sent him a consignment of indigo by the same ship, 
Captain Sammis, and hoped for its favorable sale in 
France. No doubt the venture succeeded so well that 
the young traders were induced to repeat the experi- 
ment. As it happened, however, on December 22, a 
week before this entry for the indigo was made, the 
famous Embargo Act of President Jefferson had taken 
effect, with the result of cutting off all exports to Eng- 
land and France and at the same time of paralyzing 
American trade. The Bakewell house, as we have al- 
ready noticed, like so many others, immediately went 
down, and the partners found that their tobacco and 
other western produce found so little sale in New York 
that by April 7, 1808, they were obliged to call for an 
extension of their notes. 

Notwithstanding the gloomy outlook for trade, 
Audubon had no fears for the future. As early as 

6 See Appendix I, Document No. 11. 

7 See Chapter XI, page 158. 


March, 1808, he left Rozier in Kentucky and returned 
to Pennsylvania. No time was lost in making known 
his plans to Lucy Bakewell and her family, and having 
received their approval, the lovers prepared for the ad- 
venturous journey that was to celebrate their wedding. 
Audubon was married to Miss Bakewell, at "Fatland 
Ford," on Tuesday, April 5, 1808, by the Reverend Doc- 
tor Latimer, an Episcopal clergyman of Philadelphia, 
and on the next morning started with his bride for the 
frontier. This event must be regarded as the most 
auspicious in his career, for in all probability the world 
would never have heard of Audubon had it not been for 
the spur to his ambition and the balance wheel to his 
character which came through his admirable wife. 

The first stage of their honeymoon involved the long 
ride of over 250 miles to Pittsburgh, the hazards and 
discomforts of which we have learned from Rozier's 
description; it was marked in this instance by an acci- 
dent, for in crossing the Alleghany mountains their 
coach was upset and Mrs. Audubon did not escape with- 
out severe bruises. At Pittsburgh the Audubons met a 
number of young emigrants bound westward like them- 
selves, and in their company they prepared to float down 
the beautiful Ohio in a flatboat or ark. Their entire 
journey, which, owing to the windings of the river, could 
not have been much less than a thousand miles, was 
made in twelve days, and without further mishap. 

The wild and varied beauty of the Ohio of that day 
had great attractions for the naturalist, who often re- 
gretted that no facile writer had left a true and vivid 
picture of it for the benefit of posterity, for he foresaw 
with great concern the inevitable changes which advanc- 
ing civilization would quickly produce along its delight- 
ful banks. Audubon traversed this mighty highway 


countless times in after life, and some of his musings 
have lost none of their interest with the flight of time, 
for he had witnessed the advance of the white man and 
the retreat of the red, along with the great herds of 
deer, elk and buffalo that once found peaceful pasturage 
on its banks. Speaking of a later but hardly less ro- 
mantic journey, 8 he said: 

As night came, sinking into darkness the broader portions 
of the river, our minds became affected by strong emotions, 
and wandered far beyond the present moments. The tinkling 
of bells told us that the cattle which bore them were gently 
roving from valley to valley in search of food, or returning 
to their distant homes. The hooting of the Great Owl, or the 
muffled noise of its wings as it sailed smoothly over the stream, 
were matters of interest to us ; so was the sound of the boat- 
man's horn, as it came winding more and more softly from 
afar. When daylight returned, many songsters burst forth 
with echoing notes, more and more mellow to the listening ear. 
Here and there the lonely cabin of a squatter struck the eye, 
giving note of commencing civilization. The crossing of the 
stream by a deer foretold how soon the hills would be covered 
by snow. 

Many sluggish flatboats we overtook and passed ; some laden 
with produce from the different head-waters of the small rivers 
that pour their tributary streams into the Ohio ; others, of less 
dimensions, crowded with emigrants from distant parts, in 
search of a new home. 

The margins of the shores and of the river were at this 
season amply supplied with game. A Wild Turkey, a Grouse, 
or a Blue-winged Teal, could be procured in a few moments ; 
and we fared well, for, whenever we pleased, we landed, struck 
up a fire and provided, as we were, with the necessary utensils, 
procured a good repast. 

8 When Audubon was returning with his wife and infant son from 
Pennsylvania to Kentucky in the autumn of 1810; see "The Ohio," 
Ornithological Biography (Bibl. No. 2), vol. i, p. 29. 


Louisville at this time was a small trading and agri- 
cultural center of barely a thousand people. 9 Though 
the early promises of business there were not fulfilled, 
Audubon and his wife at once entered upon a happy 
period, for they made many friends in a new country 
settled by whole-hearted, well-to-do planters; the men 
were fond of good horses and of hunting, and the nat- 
uralist, who was also a merchant, was welcomed among 
them as a kindred spirit. But, said Audubon, "birds 
were birds then as now, and my thoughts were ever and 
anon turning towards them as the objects of my greatest 
delight. I shot, I drew, I looked on nature only; my 
days were happy beyond human conception, and beyond 
that I really cared not. ... I seldom passed a day 
without drawing a bird, or noting something respecting 
its habits, Rozier meantime attending the counter." 

To revert again to the business affairs of the Audu- 
bon-Rozier firm at Louisville, an interesting record has 
been preserved in a letter 10 written by Thomas Bake- 
well, a former fellow-clerk of the naturalist in the senior 
Bakewell's counting-house in New York; this was in- 
cluded with the statement of account, referred to above. 

Thomas Bakewell to Audubon Sf Rosier 

[At bottom of account sheet] New York, Decern?. 13th. 1808 
Mess rs . J. Audubon & F. Rozier 

Gent k . 

I have now the pleasure to hand } r ou your account current 
with my Father's Estate according to your desire as expressed 

"In 1800 the population of Louisville was 600, and in 1810 it had 
risen to 1,350; see Charles Cist, Cincinnati in 18.$1 (Cincinnati, 1841). 

10 For this and the letter of Thomas Bakewell's uncle, William Bake- 
well, which follows later, I am indebted to Mr. Tom J. Rozier; see Note, 
Vol. I, p. 133, and for accompanying "Account Current" of Audubon & 
Rozier, Appendix I, Document No. 11. 


in your letter to Mess Rob 1 . Kinder & C°. under date the 21 st . 

of Nov r . last. I cannot tell what error you allude to of 93 . 
I suppose it is the amount of commission returned $93. 94) / 100 
which you will perceive is duly at your C r . in the a/c. I am 
sorry to say that the tobacco is still unsold & that there is no 
prospect of selling it so as to cover the balance of your a/c 
Mess rs R. Kinder & C°. request me to say that they wish the 
yarn mentioned in their letter of the [word omitted] to be made 
of water rotted Hemp & that they will write you p r next post 
with their account against you as requested by you — 

I remain Gent n 
with Your m°. ob*. Serv*. 

Tho s . Bakewell 
for the assignees of my 

Father's estate — 

Give my love to M rs . A. my aunt a rec d . hers last night — 
S. & is much as usual — she remains very sick yet. 

T B 
[Superscribed] Mess rs . Audubon & Rozler 


Audubon fraternized with the sporting men of his 
district, who gladly sent him every rare bird that fell to 
their guns. At Shippingport also, then an independent 
center below the falls or rapids, he found a sympathetic 
spirit in Doctor W. C. Gait, a local botanist, as well as 
in Nicholas Berthoud, who had become his wife's 
brother-in-law, and who was a friend on whom he could 
always rely. The spirit of hospitality so manifest in 
all these new friends won the heart of Audubon and of 
his attractive wife, to whom the door of a neighbor's 
house was sure to open whenever business or adventure 


called her husband away. "We lived," said Audubon, 
"two years at Louisville, where we enjoyed many of the 
best pleasures which this life can afford; and whenever 
we have since passed that way, we have found the kind- 
ness of our former friends unimpaired." It was while 
they were living at Gnathway's hotel of the "Indian 
Queen," in Louisville, that Victor Gifford Audubon, 
who was destined to become his father's right hand in 
the publication of his most important works, was born 
on June 12, 1809. 

When Audubon had reached his twenty-fourth year, 
nature, his fond nurse from infancy, was calling to him 
more loudly than ever before, but to most of his con- 
temporaries his devotion to natural history could have 
seemed little else than sheer madness, or, at best, an 
utter waste of time. By the year 1810 his portfolios 
were swelling with upwards of two hundred pictures of 
American birds, produced, to be sure, without any plan, 
and far inferior to the best of his later work, but still 
done to the size of life, in the natural colors, and far 
excelling in fidelity and charm anything that had been 
attempted before. At this time, however, the young 
traders needed money for more practical affairs, and 
Audubon's father-in-law, William Bakewell of "Fat- 
land Ford," consented to sell a portion of this estate, 
amounting to 170 acres, in order that his daughter, 
Lucy, might immediately realize her interest in it. From 
this sale nearly $8,000 was obtained; the money was 
deposited with Messrs. Robert Kinder & Company of 
New York, a firm with which Audubon and Rozier had 
dealt from the opening of their business at Louisville. 
This is clearly shown by the following interesting 
letter: 11 

"See Note, Vol. I, p. 196. 


William Bakewell to Audubon Sf Rozier 

Fatland Foed 10 Apt 1810 
Mess s Audubon & Roziee 

Gent n 

I have at last settled the whole business with M r Jos h 
Williams I have allowed him for the two thirds in cash 3 per 
cent & have remitted to Messrs Kinder's 7838.50 on your 
account. — The quantity was surveyed to 170 acres at 47.5 
per acre 7998.50, from which was deducted 160 dol s for dis- 

As I have had a great deal of trouble & anxiety in this 
business & had to find assistants in surveying with several days 
attendance, dinners &c for the whole party several journeys 
to Norris Town and also to Philad a with the carriage to convey 
the money — postages &c. — I charge you 1^2 P er cen ^ on the 
purchase money which I hope you will think not unreasonable 
as I believe it is under the charge of the land brokers in Philad a 
& they have no trouble in the business compared to what I have 
had — I feel as if a great burthen was taken off my back now 
it is all finished. Out of this you will please to present Lucy 
with 38 dol s which was the price the mare sold for — I expected 
one of you Gent n would have come to the Eastward before now 
it is I expect M r Roziers turn this Spring 

I had one forged note returned at the Bank out of the 
money of M r Williams & one dollar a counterfiet, but I had 
stipulated that he should take any faulty ones back. He paid 
about a third of the money in specie so that I was obliged to 
take the carriage with it. I took it to the Pennsylvania Bank 
& got an order on the Manhattan Bank in N York & have M r 
Kinder's receipt for the order 

They have got a considerable quantity of ore out of the 
mine 12 some lead & some copper but I do not hear of any being 
yet sold 

12 The lead mine at "Mill Grove," which with the remaining Audubon 
and Rozier interests in the farm had been taken over by Daeosta's com- 
pany in September, 1806. The failure of Dacosta followed in about a 
year after the date of this letter. 


Present the kind regards of our family circle to my daugh- 
ter, M r Audubon, & my Grandson 13 who I hope are well 

I remain Gent n 

Yours truly 

W m Bakewell 


M r Kinder is of opinion that there ought to be a renuncia- 
tion by Lucy of any claim of dower upon this estate to 
make the title good this may be sent on when you are 
coming this way 
[Addressed] Mess s Audubon & Roziee 

Merch s 


Kentucky — 
[Endorsed] Rec d . May 5 th . 1810 

Lucy Green Bakewell, Audubon's wife, was three 
years younger than her husband, having been born at 
Burton-on-Trent, England, in 1788. Her family were 
descended from John Bakewell of "Castle Donning- 
ton," in Leicestershire; Robert Bakewell, the geologist, 
who came to the naturalist's defense many years later, 
and who lived until 1843, was a nephew of her grand- 
father, Joseph Bakewell of Derby. Left an orphan at 
an early age, Lucy's father, William Bakewell, was 
brought up by an uncle, Thomas Woodhouse, a rich 
bachelor of Crith, Derbyshire, who eventually left him 
a fortune. 

When William Bakewell succeeded to his uncle's es- 
tate and manor, he lived the life of a country gentleman, 
devoting himself mainly to shooting and to the study of 
chemistry and natural philosophy, while he enjoyed the 
friendship of such men as Joseph Priestley and Erasmus 
Darwin. His advocacy of Priestley's republican and 

13 Victor Gifford Audubon, who was then nine months old. 


liberal religious doctrines is said to have cost him the 
honorary office of justice of the peace in his community 
and to have determined his emigration to America. His 
first visit to America was made in the summer of 1798, 
when, with his brother Benjamin, 14 he started an estab- 
lishment for brewing English ale at New Haven; 
through his chemical knowledge and skill he is said to 
have reproduced to perfection the famous Burton ales. 
William Bakewell brought his family to the United 
States in 1802, and when a disastrous fire destroyed his 
business at New Haven, he took up the large farm of 
"Fatland Ford" in 1804, as already related (p. 108). 
In that retired spot he devoted much time to his library 
and laboratory, while living a life of easy independence. 
If abrupt in manners and inclined to severity in disci- 
pline, he was generous, kind-hearted and an ardent re- 
publican. Mrs. Audubon's mother, who felt keenly the 
separation from her own people, died in September, 
1804, a few months after reaching "Fatland Ford," and 
in the following year William Bakewell was married to 
Rebecca Smith. This lady seems to have taken a strong 
dislike to Audubon, for when her death was announced 
in 1821, 15 he referred to her as "my constant enemy 
. . . God forgive her faults." 

At this time Audubon studied nature for the pure 
love of it, without the faintest expectation that his labors 
in natural history would ever be of any service to the 
world. But in the year 1810 occurred an event, of seem- 
ingly small moment at the time, which nevertheless left 
a distinct mark upon his career, as will be now related. 

14 See Vol. I, p. 153. 

15 William Bakewell died at Philadelphia on March 6, of the same year, 
after suffering from the effects of a sunstroke, and was, eventually, buried 
at "Fatland Ford;" in 1822 his farm, originally of 800 acres, passed into 
the hands of Dr. William Wetherill. See Note, Vol. I, p. 99, and W. G. 
Bakewell, Bakew ell-Page -Campbell (Bibl. No. 200). 




Alexander Wilson and his American Ornithology — His canvassing tour of 
1810 — His retort to a Solomon of the Bench— Descriptions of Pitts- 
burgh, Cincinnati and Louisville— Meeting with Audubon — Journey to 
New Orleans — Youth in Scotland— Weaver, itinerant peddler, poet 
and socialist — Sent to jail for libel — Emigrates to the United States — 
Finally settles as a school teacher near Philadelphia — His friendships 
with Bartram and Lawson — Disappointments in love — Early studies of 
American birds — His drawings, thrift, talents and genius — Publication 
of his Ornithology — His travels, discouragements and success — His pre- 
mature death — Conflicting accounts of the visit to Audubon given by 
the two naturalists — Rivalry between the friends of Wilson, dead, and 
those of Audubon, living— The controversy which followed — An evasive 
"Flycatcher" — Singular history of the Mississippi Kite plate. 

On January 30, 1810, a man of rather coarse fea- 
tures, with a head of sandy hair, and possessed of man- 
ners that could be winning or aggressive according to 
his mood, might have been seen leaving Philadelphia 
afoot, for he had planned to keep his expenses down 
to a dollar a day and traveling by coach or on horseback 
suited neither his purse nor the objects of his mission. 
His clothing was coarse ; his luggage, with the exception 
of a fowling-piece and two red-backed volumes of quarto 
size, was of the lightest description. But, could we have 
peered between the covers of those books, our curiosity 
would have been whetted, for they were filled with col- 
ored plates of American birds, the first-fruits of their 
bearer's untrained eye and hand; the text, moreover, 
was printed in a style which would have done honor to 
anv country. 



This man was Alexander Wilson, who, like Audubon, 
was a pioneer in the study of the birds of his adopted 
land, but who was twenty years his predecessor in point 
of publication. The books which he then carried were 
part of the first edition of his now famous American 
Ornithology, the second volume of which had appeared 
in Philadelphia at the beginning of that year. Though 
not destined to be completed until after his death, this 
work was to become one of the scientific and lit- 
erary treasures of the nation, but it is not likely that 
one in ten thousand had then ever heard of him, whether 
as poet or as ornithologist, or cared anything about his 
work or his mission. 

Wilson at that moment was starting on his last long 
journey through the West and South, in search of new 
birds. He also carried in his pocket a subscription list, 
and therefore belonged to that class of visitor which is 
seldom welcomed with rapture. At Lancaster, Pennsyl- 
vania, Wilson's first important stopping-place, and at 
that time the capital of the State, Governor Snyder put 
down his name for $120, the price of the completed work. 
This seemed a good omen, but, at Hanover, in the same 
state, an incident occurred which might have discour- 
aged a less determined man; the interview has become 
historical, and we shall give Wilson's own relation of 
it: 1 

Having a letter from Dr. Muhlenburgh to a Clergyman in 
Hanover, I passed on through a well cultivated country, chiefly 
inhabited by Germans, to that place, where a certain Judge 
Hustetter took upon himself to say, that such a book as mine 
ought not to be encouraged ; as it was not within the reach of 

1 In a letter to Alexander Lawson, written from Pittsburgh, on 
February 22, 1810; see Elliott Coues, "Private Letters of Wilson, Ord, 
and Bonaparte," Venn Monthly, vol. x, pp. 443-455 (Philadelphia, 1879). 


the commonalty ; and therefore inconsistent with our Republi- 
can institutions ! By the same mode of reasoning, which I did 
not dispute, I undertook to prove him a greater culprit than 
myself, in erecting a large elegant three story Brick house, 
so much more beyond the reach of the Commonalty as he called 
them, and therefore grossly contrary to our Republican insti- 
tutions. I harangued this Solomon of the Bench more seri- 
ously afterwards, pointing out to him the great influence of 
Science on a young rising Nation like ours, till he began to 
show such symptons of intellect, as to seem ashamed of what 
he had said. 

At Pittsburgh Wilson met Audubon's old employer 
and relative by marriage, Benjamin Bake well. The 
picture which he then drew 2 of that growing hive of 
industry will be read with interest: 

On arriving at the town, which stands on a low flat, and 
looks like a collection of Blacksmith shops, Glass houses, Brew- 
eries, Forges, and Furnaces, the Monongahela opened to the 
view on the left running along the bottom of a range of hills 
so high that the sun at this season sets to the town of Pitts- 
burgh at a little past four. This range continues along the 
Ohio as far as the view reaches. The ice had just begun to 
give way in Monongahela, and came down in vast bodies for the 
three following days. It has now begun in the Alleghany, and 
at the moment I write it is one white Mass of rushing ice. The 
country beyond the Ohio to the west appears a mountainous 
and hilly region. The Monongahela is lined with Arks, usually 
called Kentucky Boats, waiting for the rising of the river, & 
the absence of ice, to descend. A perspective view of the town 
of Pittsburgh at this season, with the numerous arks and cov- 
ered keel boats preparing to descend the Ohio, the grandeur 
of its hills, and the interesting circumstance of its three great 
rivers — the pillars of smoke rising from its Furnaces Glass 

a See Elliott Coues, loc. cit. 


works &c. would make a noble picture. I began a very diligent 
search in the place the day after my arrival for subscribers 
and continued it for four days. I succeeded beyond expecta- 
tion having got 19 names of the most wealthy and respectable 
part of the inhabitants. The industry of the town is remark- 
able ; every body you see is busy ; & as a proof of the pros- 
perity of the place an eminent lawyer told me that there has not 
been one suit instituted against a mercht. of the town these 
three years ! The Glass Houses, of which there are 3, have 
more demands for Glass than they are able to answer. Mr. 
Bakewell the proprietor of the best, shewed .... yesterday a 
Chandelier of his manufacture highly ornamented, . . . for 
which he received 300 dollars. It would ornament the .... in 
Philada. and is perfectly transparent. 

Eight days after he had reached Pittsburgh, Wilson 
bravely launched a little skiff, which he christened the 
Ornithologist, and began an arduous and perilous 
journey to Cincinnati, Louisville and New Orleans, a 
distance of two thousand miles. "In this lonesome man- 
ner," he wrote, "with full leisure for observation and 
reflection, exposed to hardships all day, and hard berths 
all night, I persevered from the 24th of February to 
Sunday evening, March 17th, when I moored my skiff 
safely in Bear Grass Creek, at the rapids of the Ohio, 
after a voyage of seven hundred and twenty miles." 

Cincinnati, then a town of five hundred houses, was 
reached on the ninth of March ; while there Wilson made 
the acquaintance of Dr. Daniel Drake, who was later 
Audubon's friend, and examined a collection of Indian 
relics which had been taken from a freshly opened 
mound. He left Cincinnati convinced that its well-to- 
do class must be a very thoughtful people, so many of 
them, when approached for a subscription to his work, 
having replied that they would "think about it." Upon 


nearing Louisville at nightfall he became alarmed lest 
he should be drawn into the suction of the Falls, as no 
lights could be seen on the banks: cautiously coasting 
along the shore, where he encountered many logs and 
sawyers, at last he entered the Creek and secured his 
skiff to a Kentucky boat; then, "loading myself with my 
baggage," he wrote, "I groped my way through a swamp 
up to the town." 3 When Wilson had seen the Falls by 
daylight, he felt that his fears of the night before had 
been groundless, and declared that he should have no 
hesitation in navigating them single-handed. 

It will be interesting to follow Wilson's journey a 
little further, before returning to the Louisville visit. 
After passing a few days in Audubon's town, he struck 
out into the heart of Kentucky, calling at Shelby ville, 
Frankfort and Lexington, and eventually reaching 
Nashville, Tennessee. Not far from the latter place he 
met a landlord of admirable discrimination, Isaac Wal- 
ton by name, who showed himself worthy of his illustri- 
ous ancestor by declaring that Wilson was evidently 
traveling for the good of the world, and added: "I 
cannot, and will not charge you anything. Whenever 
you come this way, call and stay with me; you shall be 

At Nashville Wilson wrote to Miss Sarah Miller, the 
lady to whom he was engaged but whom he did not live 
to marry: "Nine hundred miles distant from you sits 
Wilson, the hunter of birds' nests and sparrows, just 
preparing to enter on a wilderness of 780 miles — most 
of it in the territory of Indians — alone but in good spir- 
its, and expecting to have every pocket crammed with 
skins of new and extraordinary birds before he reach 

3 Letter to Alexander Lawson, dated at Lexington, April 4, 1810; see 
Grosart, Poems and Literary Prose of Alexander Wilson, vol. i, p. 189. 


the City of New Orleans." Continuing on his course 
in search of new birds and subscribers, Wilson arrived 
at Natchez on May 18, and, passing through Louisiana, 
on the sixth day of June he entered New Orleans, where 
his spirits were immediately raised by the accession of 
sixty new names to his list. After six months of con- 
tinuous effort, traveling now in a small boat, now on 
the back of a horse, but frequently on foot, drenched by 
torrents of rain or scorched by the unaccustomed heat, 
often compelled to drink the poisonous water of cane 
brakes in Mississippi (to which must be attributed an 
attack of malarial fever, which he was able with diffi- 
culty to throw off, but from which, in all probability, 
he never fully recovered), he returned to New York 
by sea, and on September 2, 1810, was again in Phila- 

On this journey Wilson was a pioneer in much of 
the territory which Audubon had hardly begun to ex- 
plore, but which later became the scene of his wander- 
ings and adventures for many a year. At Louisville the 
two naturalists met, but they did not become good 
friends; though devoted to the same objects, differences 
in temperament might in any event have kept them 
apart. Unfortunately, the feelings of jealousy which 
were then aroused, or which were stirred up at a later 
day, were fostered by some of Wilson's injudicious 
friends to such an extent that from the moment Audu- 
bon's work became known, and long before he had pub- 
lished a line, they became as thorns in his path, and 
they continued to vex him for thirty years. It is not 
easy to reach a fair judgment in this matter now, and 
it would be impossible to do so without a better under- 
standing of the man who suddenly appeared upon Au- 
dubon's horizon at Louisville in 1810 and then vanished. 


Because of the peculiar relations which existed between 
these two pioneers, we must follow the history of the 
elder man a little more closely. 

Alexander Wilson was the son of a weaver at Pais- 
ley, Scotland, where he was born in 1766; he was thus 
Audubon's senior by nineteen years. His father, who 
was esteemed for his honesty and intelligence, had tasted 
prosperity, but irremediable poverty fell to his lot in 
later life. Alexander, the younger son, was motherless 
at ten, and the stepmother that soon appeared seems 
to have shown him scant sympathy, or, at all events, 
never won his affection. Alexander Wilson's youth 
unhappily coincided with an era of bad feeling in his 
native land; the times were hard in bonny Scotland, 
education was stagnant, and the public morals were 
debased. Wilson was a child of his times; like thou- 
sands of other youths, he was bound to suffer from the 
conditions of his early environment, but unlike many 
thousands of his day, he was possessed of talents and 
ambition which bitter adversity tended to sharpen and 
could never repress. 

At thirteen young Wilson was taken from school and 
apprenticed to a weaver, William Duncan, his brother- 
in-law, and for three years he was no stranger to hard 
work and the birchen rod. For nearly three years more, 
as master weaver, he knew little beyond the grind and 
grime of the factory and the society of factory hands. 
At eighteen, however, his rebellious spirit struck, and 
for ten years he appeared in the role of itinerant peddler, 
poet and orator, and as socialist to the extent of cham- 
pioning the oppressed weaver class. At one time Wil- 
son came into correspondence with Robert Burns and 
later made his acquaintance. His best dialect poem, 
"Watty and Meg, or The Taming of a Shrew," pub- 


lished anonymously as a penny chap-book in 1782, was 
his one popular success in the character of poet ; accord- 
ing to report it was attributed to Burns, who admitted 
that he would have been glad to have written the verses, 
which sold so freely that a hundred thousand copies 
were disposed of in a few weeks. 4 In the disputes be- 
tween capital and labor which arose at Paisley, Wilson 
took an active part. In connection with them he pub- 
lished a number of lampoons in verse, for which he was 
convicted of libel and was compelled to burn his satires 
at the town cross. In one instance, which occurred in 
February, 1793, a petty tyrant whom he had riddled 
exacted the fine, 5 and because of his inability to pay 
Wilson was sent to jail, where he languished for over 
three months. 

Under the pressure of such persecutions, hard times, 
and possibly from disappointment in an affair of the 
heart, Wilson decided to emigrate. Practically driven 
out in rags from the country which one day was to raise 
a monument to his memory, at the age of twenty-eight 
he sailed from Belfast with his nephew, William Dun- 
can, for the Eldorado of the New World. Wilson slept 
on deck throughout the entire voyage of fifty-three 
days, and landed at New Castle, Delaware, with the 
clothes on his back and an old fowling-piece as his only 
possessions. This was on July 14, 1794, nine years be- 
fore John James Audubon left Nantes. Taking train 
"number 11," in the parlance of knights of the road, 
the two immigrants first walked to Wilmington in search 
of employment, and finding none there, went on twenty- 
nine miles farther to Philadelphia. 

4 See Grosart, Poems and Literary Prose of Alexander Wilson, vol. i, 
p. xxiv. 

B For "The Shark, or Lang Mills Detected," a satire directed against 
William Sharp, a manufacturer of Paisley; Wilson was fined £12 13s. 6d. 


The story is told that while they made their 
way through the woods of Delaware, Wilson 
shot a Red-headed Woodpecker and met with 
the Cardinal Grosbeak; as he often referred to the 
pleasure which the sight of these beautiful birds had 
given him, the incident, if it really occurred, may have 
played a part in the inspiration, which later came to 
Wilson, of becoming the historian of American bird 


After eight hard years of shifting about, during 
which Wilson tried day-labor, weaving, peddling and 
school teaching, working long hours at miserable pay, he 
finally settled as a country school teacher near New 
York. On the twelfth of July, 1801, he wrote to a fellow 
teacher and friend, Charles Orr, who was then living at 
Philadelphia: "I live six miles from Newark and twelve 
miles from New York, in a settlement of canting, 
preaching, praying, and snivelling ignorant Presbyte- 
rians. They pay their minister 250 pounds for preach- 
ing twice a week, and their teacher 40 dollars a quarter 
for the most spirit-sinking, laborious work — 6, I may 
say 12 times weekly." To the same friend, in 1802, 
he confided: "My disposition is to love those who love 
me with all the warmth of enthusiasm, but to feel with 
the keenest sensibility the smallest appearance of neglect 
or contempt from those I regard." 

In 1802, at the age of thirty-six, Wilson decided to 
take up a school at Gray's Ferry, on the Schuylkill 
River, in Kingsessing Township, then a small settlement 
four miles from Philadelphia. A year later, in 1803, 
John James Audubon was sent to America to learn 
English and enter trade, and, as chance would have it, 
settled on the banks of the same river, not many miles 
from Wilson's old schoolhouse. In one respect the 


older man was the more fortunate, for, as will be seen, 
he found close by his door an excellent naturalist who 
played the part of mentor. 

On February 14, 1802, while at Philadelphia, Wilson 
wrote to Orr: 

On the 25th. of this month I remove to the schoolhouse be- 
yond Gray's Ferry to succeed the present teacher there. I 
shall recommence that painful profession once more with the 
same gloomy, sullen resignation that a prisoner re-enters his 
dungeon or a malefactor mounts the scaffold ; fate urges him, 
necessity me. The agreement between us is to make the school 
equal to 100 dollars per quarter, but not more than 50 are to 
be admitted. The present pedagogue is a noisy, outrageous 
fat old captain of a ship, who has taught these ten years in 
different places. You may hear him bawling 300 yards off. 
The boys seem to pay as little regard to him as ducks to the 
rumbling of a stream under them. I shall have many diffi- 
culties to overcome in establishing my own rules and authority. 

At Gray's Ferry, where he was then settled, Wilson 
again wrote in July: "Leave that cursed town at least 
one day. It is the most striking emblem of purgatory, 
at least to me, that exists. No poor soul is happier to 
escape from Bridewell than I am to smell the fresh air 
and gaze over the green fields after a day or two's resi- 
dence in Philadelphia . . ." 

George Ord, Wilson's staunch friend, literary execu- 
tor, biographer, and editor of the last two volumes of 
the American Ornithology, thus characterized him: "He 
was of the genus irritabile, and was obstinate in opin- 
ion." He would acknowledge error when discovered by 
himself, "but he could not endure to be told of his mis- 
takes. Hence his associates had to be sparing of 
criticism, through fear of forfeiting his friendship. With 


almost all his friends he had occasionally, arising from 
a collision of opinion, some slight misunderstanding, 
which was soon passed over, leaving no disagreeable 
impression. But an act of disrespect he could ill brook, 
and a wilful injury he would seldom forgive." 

In 1801, while teaching and studying German at 
Milestown, Pennsylvania, Wilson had another unfor- 
tunate love affair, in this instance with a woman already 
married. To this he alluded in letters written in the 
summer of that year to his friend Orr, with whom he 
later quarreled. On August 7, 1801, he wrote: "The 
world is lost forever to me and I to the world. No time 
nor distance can ever banish her image from my mind. 
It is forever present with me, and my heart is broken 
with the most melancholy reflections." 

At Gray's Ferry, however, Wilson soon found in the 
estimable William Bartram, then in his sixty-first year, 
the sympathetic adviser, kind teacher, and judicious 
friend that he most needed, for though Wilson took the 
initiative in his ornithological plans, it was the kindly 
Bartram who eventually extended a helping hand. Both 
Bartram and Lawson, the engraver, urged him to devote 
his leisure to drawing, as a foil to his melancholic tenden- 
cies. Wilson did not hesitate long, for on June 1, 1803, 
he confided to a friend in Scotland that he had begun to 
make a "collection of our finest birds." Early in 1804 
his purpose was clearly fixed, and on March 12 of that 
year he wrote to Alexander Lawson: "I am most 
earnestly bent on pursuing my plan of making a collec- 
tion of all the birds in this part of North America . . . 
I have been so long accustomed to the building of airy 
castles and brain windmills, that it has become one of 
my earthly comforts, a sort of rough bone, that amuses 
me when sated with the dull drudgery of life." A 













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little later in the same month we find him appealing to 
Bartram for exact names, when he writes: 

I send for your amusement a few attempts at some of our 
indigenous birds, hoping that your good nature will excuse their 
deficiencies, while you point them out to me. . . . They were 
chiefly coloured by candle-light. I have now got my collection 
of native birds considerably enlarged, and shall endeavor, if 
possible, to obtain all the smaller ones this summer. Be pleased 
to mark on the drawings, with a pencil, the names of each bird, 
as, except three or four, I do not know them. 

Wilson, practically self-taught in everything, with 
no experience or training in drawing from nature, thus 
began at the age of thirty-eight to make his drawings 
of birds, before he knew the names of his subjects, and 
twenty years before Audubon's talents were known to 
any but members of his own family and a few intimate 
friends. The only aid in drawing which Wilson ever 
received appears to have come from the hints which 
Lawson supplied. Nevertheless, the best of Alexander 
Wilson's original drawings represent a degree of ex- 
cellence and honest workmanship of which he had no 
need to be ashamed, and in many instances he owed 
far less to his engraver, Alexander Lawson, than did 
his great rival to Robert Havell. 

In 1880 Dr. Elliott Coues examined a large collection 
of original Wilson and Audubon drawings and manu- 
scripts, "owned and kept with the greed of a genuine 
bibliomaniac" by Joseph M. Wade, then editor of Fa- 
miliar Science and Fancier's Journal. If not Wilson's 
portfolio itself, its contents, at least, said Dr. Coues, 
were then in Mr. Wade's possession, and this series of 
Wilson's drawings included, he thought, more than half 


of the originals of his famous plates. To quote Dr. 
Coues : 6 

In handling these drawings and paintings, of all degrees 
of completeness, one of sensibility could but experience some 
emotions he would not care to formulate in words ... I was 
fairly oppressed with the sad story of poverty, even destitution, 
which these wan sheets of coarse paper told. Some of Wilson's 
originals are on the fly-leaves of old books, showing binder's 
marks along one edge. One of the best portraits, that of the 
Duck Hawk, is on two pieces of paper pasted together. The 
man was actually too poor to buy paper! Some of the draw- 
ings are on both sides of the paper ; some show a full picture 
on one side, and part of a mutilated finished painting on the 
other. Some show the rubbing process by which they were 
transferred. They are in all stages of completeness, from the 
rudest outlines to the finished painting. 

I know full well that in 1804, when Wilson had fairly 
begun his work on birds, he was poor enough, but I 
hesitate to believe upon such evidence that he was too 
poor to buy decent drawing materials. Wilson doubt- 
less practiced economy in these matters as in everything 
else, through his ingrained habit of Scotch thrift, and 
he was probably quite as well-to-do then as five years 
before, when out of his slender earnings he was able to 
lay money aside. 7 Later, to be sure, his modest savings 
were quite consumed by his Ornithology, and then Wil- 
liam Bartram came to his aid, even giving him a home 
in his own house. It is also wide of the mark to con- 

c See Bibliography, No. 43. 

' At Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on October 3, 1799, Alexander Wilson 
sent George Simpson, Esq., a State Treasurer's check in favor of Joseph 
Brown for $475, to be entered to the credit of Mr. Brown as one install- 
ment on 38 shares of scrip in the new loan at eight per cent, in the 
names of Thomas Eyes, 14 shares; Alexander Wilson, 14 shares; and 
Kenneth Sewell, 10 shares. 


elude from his fugitive letters or from his drawings, as 
this critic has done, that Wilson was possessed of genius 
only, and "had nothing else, not even talent and ability." 
Wilson certainly had a talent for writing and cultivated 
it with marked success; even his verse was not all of a 
"despicable mediocrity." In the art of drawing, how- 
ever, his natural gifts were of a very modest sort, and 
what he achieved was the result of the most painstaking 
effort. Of course he was not a finished scholar, as grad- 
uates from the school of adversity seldom are, but he 
had a passion for knowledge and the determination to 
excel. His genius was not fully displayed until a pow- 
erful motive, the ambition to make known the birds of 
his adopted land, had possessed his spirit and taxed his 
powers to their utmost capacity. 

Shortly after he had settled at Gray's Ferry, Wil- 
son's susceptible nature was touched by another ro- 
mance, which was again unfortunate for the poet and 
dreamer, but was probably the making of the ornitholo- 
gist. Bartram's Botanic Gardens, on the outskirts of 
Philadelphia, had long been famous for their large and 
choice collection of native plants, gathered by the inde- 
fatigable zeal of their worthy founder, John Bartram, 
Quaker philosopher, traveler, botanist, agriculturalist 
and nurseryman ; but the fairest flower in the whole col- 
lection at that time is said to have been Miss Anne 
Bartram, daughter of John the younger, niece of Wil- 
liam, who then superintended the "Kingsess Gardens," 
granddaughter of the founder, and heiress to the estate. 
To this Quaker maid Wilson addressed a number of his 
poems, and he interested her in the drawing of birds; 
on March 29, 1804, he wrote to her uncle: "I send a 
small scroll of drawing papers for Miss Nancy. She 
will oblige me by accepting it." This little incident 


would show that Wilson was no stranger to the use of 
good drawing materials, however frugal his habits in 
this respect may have been. The young lady is said 
to have been not indifferent to her poet lover, and some 
of her family were friendly; the father, however, had 
no notion of bestowing his daughter's hand upon a poor 
schoolmaster, and for the third time Wilson's dreams of 
domestic bliss were shattered. 

Such experiences no doubt tended to chasten the sen- 
sitive spirit of this real genius, whose whole life seemed 
to have been a continuous and losing struggle, while he 
felt within him an inspiration and a power that had failed 
to find adequate expression in labor at the loom, in verse, 
or in the hated vocation of teaching rough country 
schools at starvation wages. Though depressed by his 
misadventures in love, Wilson does not seem to have 
been embittered, and by way of diversion, he set out 
in the autumn of 1804, on a long walking tour from 
Philadelphia to Niagara Falls and back; in the follow- 
ing winter the experiences of this journey were embodied 
in a descriptive poem of 2,018 lines which he called "The 
Foresters," an effort which would have been less prosaic 
if frankly expressed in prose. Wilson's friendship for 
the Bartrams continued under the changed conditions, 
and he was invited to make his home under their hos- 
pitable roof. He was now free to devote himself heart 
and soul to birds and to birds alone. 

Wilson etched the first two plates of his American 
Ornithology before he had obtained an engraver or a 
publisher. In April, 1806, he resigned his school at 
Gray's Ferry to accept an editorial position on a New 
American Cyclopcedia? then in course of preparation, 

8 This was the American edition of Abraham Rees' revision of Ephraim 
Chambers' Cyclopaedia, which had appeared in London in 1728; it was pub- 


at a salary of $900 a year. Samuel F. Bradford, the 
publisher of this work, soon became interested in Wil- 
son's projected American Ornithology and agreed to 
publish it. It became the ambition of both author and 
publisher to produce the work in a superior style, and 
to make it as perfect and complete an American prod- 
uct as possible. Only the pigments used in coloring 
some of the plates were imported from Europe. 9 

Wilson issued in April, 1807, an elaborate prospectus 
of his proposed Ornithology, in which he stated that the 
completed work would comprise ten volumes, to cost 
$120, and that it would be illustrated by plates, engraved 
and colored by hand, after the manner of a carefully 
prepared sample which was issued with the printed an- 
nouncement. In September, 1808, as already intimated, 
the first volume of the American Ornithology 10 appeared 

lished at Philadelphia, in forty-one quarto volumes of text and six volumes 
of plates, by Samuel F. Bradford and the Messrs. Murray, Fairman & 
Company, 1810-1824. 

9 "The types," said Charles Robert Leslie, "which were very beautiful, 
were cast in America, and though at that time paper was largely imported, 
he [Mr. Bradford] determined that the paper should be of American 
manufacture; and I remember that Ames, the paper maker, carried his 
patriotism so far that he declared that he would use only American rags 
in making it." (Autobiographical Recollections, Boston, 1860.) 

10 The American Ornithology: or, the Natural History of the Birds 
of the United States: Illustrated with Plates Engraved and Colored from 
Original Drawings taken from Nature, by Alexander Wilson, was published 
in nine imperial quarto volumes by Messrs. Bradford and Inskeep, at 
Philadelphia, 1808-1814. Each volume contained nine plates and from 
100 to 167 pages of text, exclusive of prefatory and other matter. The 
eighth volume, which was nearly ready for press at the time of the 
author's death, was edited by George Ord, Wilson's friend and executor; 
the final volume, which was wholly by Ord, and which was issued in 
the same year, contained a life of Wilson. After the appearance of the 
initial volume, the edition was extended to 500 copies and the first volume 
was entirely reset. Ord's life of Wilson was expanded for a three-volume 
edition of the Ornithology, and from oversheets of this work was pro- 
duced as a separate volume in 1828 (see Note, Vol. I, p. 223). 

Wilson's published lists of subscribers show 449 names, calling for 458 
copies, more than half of which were taken by residents of Pennsylvania, 
New York and Louisiana; 70 were subscribed for in Philadelphia, chiefly 
by business men, artists, and "those in the middle class of society;" New 


in an edition of 200 copies. Wilson immediately started 
on a canvassing tour of New England, in the course of 
which he visited the principal towns and colleges, going 
east to Portland, Maine, and as far north as Dartmouth 
College, in New Hampshire, where President John 
Wheelock and the professors received him with marked 
attention. On this journey Wilson did not average one 
subscriber a day, and he was forced to conclude that he 
had "been mistaken in publishing a work too good for 
the country"; "it is a fault," he said, "not likely to be 
repeated, and will pretty severely correct itself." Dan- 
iel D. Tompkins, Governor of New York, coolly said 
to him: "I would not give one hundred dollars for all 
the birds you intend to describe," not even if "I had them 
alive"; but a future Governor of that State, De Witt 
Clinton, the friend of science and scientific men, gave 
him the substantial encouragement he craved. When 
his second volume was ready for issue, Wilson wrote to 
Bartram: "This undertaking has involved me in diffi- 
culties and expenses which I never dreamt of, and I 
have never yet received one cent from it. I am, there- 
fore, a volunteer in the cause of Natural History im- 
pelled by nobler views than those of money." 

In the autumn of 1808 Wilson made a long and 
arduous tour of the South, in the course of which he 
visited every important town along the southern Atlan- 
tic seaboard, and though it cost him dear, he obtained 

Orleans in seventeen days gave him 60 subscribers; Europe supplied 15, 
among whom were William Roscoe, later a patron of Audubon, and 
Benjamin West, the artist. Wilson figured and described 278 species of 
American birds (within the limits of the United States), of which 56 
were supposed to be new, and the total number, given by Wilson and 
Ord, is said to be 320. Twenty-three species were erroneously supposed 
to be identical with their European counterparts, yet all of Wilson's birds 
except the "Small-headed Flycatcher," referred to at the end of this 
chapter, have been identified. Considering the time and the difficulties 
under which he labored, his mistakes were remarkably few. 


250 subscribers; it was then that his publishers decided 
to extend the original edition of his work to 500 copies. 
His longer and more perilous journey of 1810, when his 
meeting with Audubon occurred, has already been de- 
scribed. In 1812, after the sixth volume of the Orni- 
thology had appeared, he again resumed his travels in 
the East and went as far north as Burlington, on Lake 
Champlain ; at Haverhill, New Hampshire, he was sum- 
marily arrested and thrown into jail, the people of the 
town, utterly unable to comprehend the nature of his 
pursuits, suspecting that in his real capacity he was act- 
ing as a spy in the employ of the Canadian Government. 
The seventh and last volume of the Ornithology which 
Wilson lived to complete made its appearance in the 
spring of 1813. He had then been obliged to relinquish 
his work on the Cyclopcedia, and was reduced to the pit- 
tance derived from the coloring of his own plates. 

Alexander Wilson died at Philadelphia, after a brief 
illness, on August 23, 1813. A story was current that 
his end was saddened, if not hastened, by the dishonestv 
of his publishers, but I cannot vouch for it. Audubon 
may have had this report in mind when he wrote his 
name in the hotel register at Niagara Falls 1X on August 
24, 1824 ; and added that he would never die, like Wilson, 
"under the lash of a bookseller." Even as late as 1879 
Miss Malvina Lawson, daughter of Wilson's friend and 
engraver, left no doubt as to her belief when she wrote: 
"and to his other trials was added the fact that killed 
him, — the dishonesty of his publisher." 12 

When we consider that Wilson's entire working pe- 
riod on the Ornithology was not over ten years, and that 

11 See A r ol. I, p. 340. 

12 See a letter to Professor S. S. Haldeman, dated February 6, 1879, 
in Perm Monthly, vol. x (Philadelphia, 1879). 


at the age of forty-seven he was called to lay down his 
pen and brush forever; that he produced in this brief 
space a work of great originality and charm, which did 
inestimable service in promoting the cause of natural 
history in both America and England, and which is likely 
to be read and prized for centuries to come, the achieve- 
ment of this man is little short of marvelous. Knowing 
also the disabilities under which he labored, we are more 
than ready to temper our judgment with sympathy, and 
to overlook any faults which his character may have 
displayed. These indeed, we believe, were for the most 
part of a very trifling nature; those who knew Wilson 
best have all testified to his kindness of heart, his liber- 
ality, and his high sense of honor. 

We must now return to the meeting of our two pio- 
neers, which has been the bone of so much acrimonious 
contention. On his long journey to the Middle West 
and South, Wilson reached Louisville on a Saturday 
evening, March seventeenth, 1810, and put up at the 
tavern of the "Indian Queen," where, as it happened, 
Audubon was then living with his family ; after spending 
five days in and about the town, he again set out on foot 
for Frankfort, on the morning of Friday, the twenty- 
third. Audubon has given the following account in the 
"Episode" of "Louisville in Kentucky": 13 

One fair morning, I was surprised by the sudden entrance 
into our counting-room [at Louisville] of Mr. Alexander Wil- 
son, the celebrated author of the "American Ornithology," of 
whose existence I had never until that moment been apprised. 
This happened in March, 1810. How well do I remember him, 
as he then walked up to me! His long, rather hooked nose, 
the keenness of his eyes, and his prominent cheek-bones, stamped 
his countenance with a peculiar character. His dress, too, was 

13 Ornithological Biography (Bibl. No. 2), vol. i, p. 437. 


of a kind not usually seen in that part of the country ; a short 
coat, trousers, and a waistcoat of grey cloth. His stature 
was not above the middle size. He had two volumes under his 
arm, and as he approached the table at which I was working, 
I thought I discovered something like astonishment in his 
countenance. He, however, immediately proceeded to disclose 
the object of his visit, which was to procure subscriptions for 
his work. He opened his books, explained the nature of his 
occupations, and requested my patronage. 

I felt surprised and gratified at the sight of the volumes, 
turned over a few of the plates, and had already taken a pen to 
write my name in his favour when my partner rather abruptly 
said to me in French, "My dear Audubon, what induces you to 
subscribe to this work? Your drawings are certainly far better, 
and again you must know as much of the habits of American 
birds as this gentleman. " Whether Mr. Wilson understood 
French or not, or if the suddenness with which I paused, disap- 
pointed him, I cannot tell ; but I clearly perceived that he was 
not pleased. Vanity and the encomiums of my friend prevented 
me from subscribing. Mr. Wilson asked me if I had many draw- 
ings of birds. I rose, took down a large portfolio, laid it on the 
table, and shewed him, as I would show you, kind reader, or any 
other person fond of such subjects, the whole of the contents, 
with the same patience with which he had shewn me his own en- 

His surprise appeared great, as he told me he never 
had the most distant idea that any other individual than him- 
self had been engaged in forming such a collection. He asked 
me if it was my intention to publish, and when I answered in 
the negative, his surprise seemed to increase. And, truly, such 
was not my intention ; for, until long after, when I met the 
Prince of Musignano in Philadelphia, I had not the least idea 
of presenting the fruits of my labours to the world. Mr. Wil- 
son now examined my drawings with care, asked if I should 
have any objections to lending him a few during his stay, to 
which I replied that I had none: he then bade me good morn- 
ing, not, however, until I had made an arrangement to explore 


the woods in the vicinity along with him, and had promised to 
procure for him some birds, of which I had drawings in my 
collection, but which he had never seen. 

It happened that he lodged in the same house with us, 
but his retired habits, I thought, exhibited either a strong 
feeling of discontent, or a decided melancholy. The Scotch 
airs which he played sweetly on his flute made me melan- 
choly too, and I felt for him. I presented him to my 
wife and friends, and seeing that he was all enthusiasm, 
exerted myself as much as was in my power, to procure 
for him the specimens which he wanted. We hunted to- 
gether, and obtained birds which he had never before seen ; 
but, reader, I did not subscribe to his work, for, even at that 
time, my collection was greater than his. Thinking that per- 
haps he might be pleased to publish the results of my researches, 
I offered them to him, merely on condition that what I had 
drawn, or might afterwards draw and send to him, should be 
mentioned in his work, as coming from my pencil. I at the same 
time offered to open a correspondence with him, which I thought 
might prove beneficial to us both. He made no reply to either 
proposal, and before many days had elapsed left Louisville, on 
his way to New Orleans, little knowing how much his talents 
were appreciated in our little town, at least by myself and my 

Some time elapsed, during which I never heard of him, or of 
his work. At length, having occasion to go to Philadelphia, 
I, immediately after my arrival there, inquired for him and 
paid him a visit. He was then drawing a White-headed Eagle. 
He received me with civility, and took me to the Exhibition 
Rooms of Rembrandt Peale, the artist, who had then portrayed 
Napoleon crossing the Alps. Mr. Wilson spoke not of birds 
or drawings. Feeling, as I was forced to do, that my com- 
pany was not agreeable, I parted from him; and after that 
I never saw him again. But judge of my astonishment some 
time after, when on reading the thirty-ninth page of the ninth 
volume of American Ornithology, I found in it the following 
paragraph : — 


"March 23, 1810.— I bade adieu to Louisville, to which 
place I had four letters of recommendation, and was taught 
to expect much of everything there ; but neither received one act 
of civility from those to whom I was recommended, one sub- 
scriber, nor one new bird; though I delivered my letters, ran- 
sacked the woods repeatedly, and visited all the characters likely 
to subscribe. Science or literature has not one friend in this 

What actually happened at this meeting of the two 
naturalists will never be certainly known, beyond what 
can be gathered from their rather widely divergent ac- 
counts. It should be noticed, however, that the para- 
graph which Audubon quoted was extracted from Wil- 
son's private diary; it was no doubt written on the spur 
of the moment, possibly to humor his own mood, and 
certainly with no thought of its later publication. It 
was inserted by George Ord in the biographical sketch 
of his friend appended to the ninth volume of the Amer- 
ican Ornithology, which appeared in 1814, the year after 
Wilson's death. Audubon was not concerned, either 
directly or by implication, except in the last sentence, 
for it is evident that he was not one of those to whom 
Wilson had carried letters of introduction. Thus the 
matter stood until 1828, when Audubon's Birds of 
America were being engraved in England. In all prob- 
ability the incident would never have been noticed by 
Audubon, had not Ord seen fit to revive it when his life 
of Wilson 14 was issued as a separate volume in that 
year. In this edition of the biography Ord inserted 
fuller extracts from Wilson's journal, with the evident 

" Sketch of the Life of Alexander Wilson, Author of the American 
Ornithology, by George Ord, F. L. S. &c. pp. i-cxcix, Philadelphia, 1838; 
taken from vol. i of an octavo edition of Wilson, edited by Ord, and issued 
by Harrison Hall, in three volumes, at Philadelphia in 1828-29, with folio 
atlas of plates reproduced from the original work; see Note 10, supra. 


purpose of placing the rival of his friend in an unenvia- 
ble light. 

Wilson's diary, which apparently was never seen by 
any of Audubon's friends, is now known to us only 
through such extracts as Ord and Waterton, his bitter 
enemies, have seen fit to make public; the original has 
probably been destroyed, for it cannot be traced later 
than 1840, when it was still in the hands of George Ord. 15 
Charles Waterton gave similar extracts from this famous 
journal in one of his philippics against Audubon in 1834, 
when he said that it was the testimony of this record 
that defeated Audubon's friends in their initial attempt 
to bring him into the Academy of Natural Sciences at 
Philadelphia. Wilson's narrative of his adventures at 
Louisville in 1810, as given by Ord and Waterton, is 
as follows: 16 

March 17. Take my baggage and grope my way to Louisville — 
put up at the Indian Queen tavern, and gladly sit down to 
rest myself. 

March 18. Rise quite refreshed. Find a number of land-specu- 
lators here. 17 

March 19. Rambling round the town with my gun. Examined 

Mr. 's drawings in crayons — very good. Saw two new 

birds he had, both Motacillae. 

March 20. Set out this afternoon with the gun — killed nothing 
new. [People in taverns here devour their meals. Many 

"See Ord's charge of plagiarism against Audubon (Bibl. No. 145) 
in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. i (1840). 
So far as could be ascertained in the summer of 1915, Wilson's diary of 
1810 was not in the possession of any library or scientific society in 
Philadelphia, nor was it in the large collection of books which was 
given by Ord to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of that city at the 
time of his death in 1866. 

18 The bracketed lines are from Waterton, who once stated that he 
had examined the original. 

17 This sentence is quoted from Burns' biographical sketch of Wilson 
(Bibl., No. 161), but tenses are changed to correspond with other entries. 


shopkeepers board in taverns — also boatmen, land-specu- 
laters, merchants &c] No naturalist to keep me company. 

March 21. Went out shooting this afternoon with Mr. A. Saw 
a number of Sandhill Cranes. Pigeons numerous. 

March 22. 

March 23. Packed up my things which I left in the care of a 
merchant here, to be sent on to Lexington ; and having 
parted with great regret, with my paroquet, to the gen- 
tleman of the tavern, I bade adieu to Louisville, to which 
place I had four letters of recommendation, and was taught 
to expect much of everything there, but neither received 
one act of civility from those to whom I was recommended, 
one subscriber, nor one new bird; though I delivered my 
letters, ransacked the woods repeatedly, and visited all the 
characters likely to subscribe. Science or literature has 
not one friend in this place. [Everyone is so intent on 
making money, that they can talk of nothing else ; and they 
absolutely devour their meals, that they may return sooner 
to their business. Their manners correspond with their 

In this fuller record we learn that Wilson spent five 
days in Louisville ; he examined Audubon's drawings on 
Monday, March 19, hunted alone on the 20th, went out 
shooting with Audubon on the 21st, and finally left 
Louisville on the morning of the 23d; no record was 
admitted by Ord for Sunday, the 18th, or for the 22d, 
a Thursday. Wilson noticed the drawings of two new 
Motacillae, or Warblers, in Audubon's collection, and 
it would have been only natural that he should have felt 
a strong desire to copy them, yet not a word was said 
about the loan of drawings to which Audubon refers; 
Wilson merely stated that from those to whom he was 
recommended he had received not "one act of civility, — 
one subscriber, nor one new bird." Audubon was evi- 


dently regarded as one of the "many shopkeepers" who 
boarded "in taverns," and not as a "naturalist," for 
Wilson said that he had none to keep him company, and 
it is rather significant that Audubon's name is not once 
mentioned in his Ornithology. 

Twenty-nine years after Wilson's visit to Louisville, 
when Audubon came to publish the fifth and last volume 
of his Ornithological Biography, he maintained that 
Wilson had copied his drawing of a certain bird, called 
the Small-headed Flycatcher, 18 without any acknowl- 
edgment. To quote Audubon's words : 

When Alexander Wilson visited me at Louisville, he found 
in my already large collection of drawings, a figure of the 
present species, which being at that time unknown to him 
he copied and afterwards published in his great work, but 
without acknowledging the privilege that had thus been granted 
to him. I have more than once regretted this, not by any 
means so much on my own account as for the sake of one to 
whom we are so deeply indebted for the elucidation of our 

This troublesome bird was first described by Wilson 
in 1812, when he rightly pronounced it "very rare," and 
said that the specimen from which his drawing was 
made had been shot in an orchard, presumably near 
Philadelphia, on the twenty-fourth day of April, and 
that several had been obtained also in New Jersey. 
His friend Ord, who came to his defense in 1840, con- 
firmed this statement by declaring to the American 
Philosophical Society of Philadelphia that he had been 
with Wilson on the day in question and had examined 

**Musicapa minuta, which appears in Figure 5, Plate 50, of volume vi 
of Wilson's American Ornithology (pp. 62-G3 of the text), and in Figure 2, 
Plate ccccxxxiv, of Audubon's Birds of America (Ornithological Biography, 
vol. v, pp. 291-3). 


the specimen. Lawson also affirmed that in engraving 
the plate he had worked directly from the bird which 
Wilson had given him. 

What has become of this mysterious phantom that has 
been a wandering and disturbing voice among ornitholo- 
gists for over a century? It has given rise to no end of 
conflicting and sharp discussions between the partisans 
of the two naturalists chiefly concerned, the only thing 
certain being that if this supposititious species ever ex- 
isted, it has forsaken its old haunts, if not the earth itself, 
and has never returned. No doubt it was simply a case 
of mistaken identity, and both Wilson and Audubon 
were wrong, each having had in hand and mind an imma- 
ture representative of one of our numerous Warblers, 
which are now so much better known. 19 If Wilson 
copied Audubon's drawing of the bird, he must have 
replaced it with one of his own, for the figures of the 
two naturalists are verv unlike. Certainly Audubon 
should not have made so serious a charge without offer- 
ing more substantial evidence in proof; perhaps what he 
had intended to convey was that Wilson had obtained 
from him his first knowledge of the bird, and he was 
nettled to find that he had been studiously ignored. 20 

18 Nevertheless so careful and discerning a naturalist as Thomas Nut- 
tall confidently asserted that his friend, Mr. M. C. Pickering, had "obtained 
a specimen several years ago near Salem (Massachusetts)"; see A Manual 
of the Ornithology of the United States and Canada (Cambridge, 1832). 
Dr. Elliott Coues at one time thought that it might have been the Pine- 
creeping Warbler, and Professor Baird identified it as the female or young 
of the Hooded Warbler. 

20 Compare Ornithological Biography, vol. iii, p. 203, where in Audubon's 
article on the Whooping Crane, there is this note: "Louisville, State of 
Kentucky, March, 1810. I had the gratification of taking Alexander Wilson 
to some ponds within a few miles of town, and of showing him many birds 
of this species, of which he had not previously seen any other than 
stuffed specimens. I told him that the white birds were the adidts, and 
that the grey ones were the young. Wilson, in his article on the Whooping 
Crane, has alluded to this, but, as on other occasions, he has not informed 
his readers whence his information came." 


Among the originals of Audubon's Birds of America 
in possession of the Historical Society of New York, 
there is an early drawing of a Warbler which bears in 
pencil, in the naturalist's hand, the following note: "This 
bird was copied by Mr. Willson at Louisville." 21 The 
misspelling of Wilson's name, which was common with 
Audubon as late as 1820, would indicate that the note 
was not added after that time, but if Wilson copied this 
drawing, there is no evidence that he ever used it. 

Ord made another charge in which Audubon does not 
appear to such good advantage; though it refers to a 
later day, it is best to consider it now. This critic 
thought that a complaint of misappropriation came with 
ill grace from one who had been guilty of it himself, 
and maintained that Audubon had copied Wilson's fig- 
ures of the female Red-wing Blackbird (The Birds of 
America, Plate LXVII), and had also stolen his draw- 
ing of the Mississippi Kite (Plate CXVII). Ord was 
probably mistaken in regard to the blackbird, but with- 
out a doubt the lower bird in the Kite plate was taken 
from Wilson (American Ornithology, Plate 25) , though 
the copyist has reversed the outlines, left out one of the 
toes, added minor details, and misnamed the sex, which 
in the Wilson original represents a male. Without a 
doubt also the odium in this case must fall upon Audu- 
bon, but we are not at all certain that he was directly 
responsible for the theft. Audubon's plate of this spe- 
cies, which is finished in elaborate detail, was probably 
published towards the close of 1831, when he was in 
America. He furnished his engraver, we believe, with 

21 What appear to be the original legends, written on this drawing in 
ink, are as follows: "Chute de l'Ohio. July 1, 1808. No. 31. J. A. Que 
j'avais figur6 [?] 12 pennes a la queue." Above were later added, also 
in ink, the names, "sylvia Trochilus delicata; Sylvia delieata, Aud." 

a is 

c - 

M B 

™ DC 


the drawing of the upper bird only, which he designated 
as a male, and the original still exists, with clearly writ- 
ten notes showing that it was executed in Louisiana in 
1821. 22 

Audubon usually made up his drawings for the en- 
graver with great care, but when pressed for time, Ha- 
vell's skill was such that he often depended upon him to 
complete or change his figures, to fill in backgrounds, 
or even to combine several distinct figures into one 
plate, specific directions for all such changes being usu- 
ally written on the drawing itself. 23 Inasmuch as no 
penciled directions whatever occur on this particular 
drawing, is it possible that Havell, in piecing it out to 
improve the composition, followed his own initiative, 
not fully appreciating the stigma that is rightly attached 
to such methods? The bird in the lower half of the plate, 
which was appropriated from Wilson, is misrepresented 
as a female, so that the composite, as it stands, is a re- 
markable product, supposedly depicting a pair but in 
reality showing two males. Although the apparent dif- 
ference in sex in this bird was admittedly slight, it is 
improbable that so gross an error could have escaped 
the naturalist's eye had he been directly concerned with 
the result. 

When Audubon was descending the Mississippi in 
December, 1820, he saw the kites busily engaged "in 
catching small lizards off the bark of dead cypress trees," 
but "having at that time no crayons or paper," he "did 

22 On this drawing, which with Audubon's other originals is in the col- 
lections of the Historical Society of New York, the legends are as follows: 
"Mississippi Kite, Male, Falco mississippiensis ; Drawn from nature by 
John J. Audubon, Louisiana, parish of Feliciana, James Perrie's Esq., 
Plantation. June 28th, 1821. Length 14 inches; Breadth 3 feet, y a inches; 
Weight 10% ounces; Tail feathers, 12." It is drawn in his usual style of 
that period, in pastel, water color and pencil, and has been dismounted. 

23 See Vol. I, p. 305. 


not draw one, and determined," as he then wrote in his 
journal, "never to draw from a stuffed bird." "I first 
saw the Mississippi Kite," he added, when "ascending 
in the steamboat Paragon, in June, 1819." Wilson, 
on the other hand, in his knowledge of this interesting 
bird was far in advance of his later rival, for his first 
observations were made in 1810, "in the Mississippi ter- 
ritory, a few miles below Natchez, on the plantation of 
William Dunbar, esquire, when the bird represented in 
the plate was obtained, after being slightly wounded; 
and the drawing made with great care from the living 
bird." "For several miles, as I passed near Bayo Man- 
chak," Wilson continues, "the trees were swarming with 
a kind of cicada, or locust, that made a deafening noise ; 
and here I observed numbers of the Hawk now before 
us sweeping about among the trees like Swallows, evi- 
dently in pursuit of these locusts; so that insects, it 
would appear, are the principal food of this species." 24 
Wilson never succeeded in procuring the female of this 
graceful hawk, and his editor, George Ord, evidently 
continued the quest, for we find his correspondent, John 
Abbot, writing him from "Scriven County Georgia Mar. 
1814": "Are you acquainted with the female yet of 
the Louisiana Kite?" 25 

We have entered into the detailed history of this plate 
because of the unfavorable comment which it has pro- 
voked, but it is easier to be critical than to be either just 
or correct, and without more definite knowledge than 
we possess, it would be unfair to censure Audubon too 
much or to shift the blame too completely upon the 
shoulders of another. 

24 American Ornithology, vol. iii, p. 80. 

20 See Witner Stone, "Some Letters of Alexander Wilson and John 
Abbot," The Auk, vol. xxiii, 190G. 


To return again to the story of Wilson's diary, it 
is evident that Wilson would never have published his 
sentiments in the form in which they later appeared. 
They were perfectly characterized by a just critic of an 
early day, 20 who said that Wilson's words were without 
doubt written in a moment of keen depression and disap- 
pointment and were an exact description of his feelings, 
though, as we should also add, not of the facts. "A 
man who has given his heart to the accomplishment of 
an object, believing that he has no rival, must be some- 
what more than human, if he be delighted to find that 
another is engaged in the same purpose, with equal 
energy and advantages far greater than his own." Bar- 
ring his usual inaccuracies, it must be admitted that Au- 
dubon's account bears the thumbmarks of truth. He 
could not have known the bitter struggles of the proud 
spirit whose history we have briefly told ; he saw only a 
stranger, an ardent devotee of nature, it is true, but a 
man of unbending disposition, who with a little more 
suavity of address could probably have won his friend- 
ship, if not his subscription. Of the literary quality of 
Wilson's work, now so well appreciated, he could have 
known nothing at all; after turning its pages in his 
Louisville store for the first time in 1810, he probably 
did not see it again for over ten years. 

That Wilson was jealous of Audubon as a future 
rival is probable, but the real "rivalry" between these two 
pioneers was of later growth. It was fostered in this 
country chiefly by George Ord and some of his friends, 
together with others who were interested in the sale of 
Wilson's work. Ord, who seems to have felt that the 
mantle of this naturalist had fallen on his own shoul- 

26 In 1840, by W. B. O. Peabody, naturalist; author of a Life of Wilson; 
see Bibliography, No. 105. 


ders, strove continually, and after 1826 with the aid of 
Charles Waterton in England, to hamper Audubon's 
progress, to discredit him as a man of integrity, and 
to break down his growing reputation as a naturalist. 
Though Ord was justified to some extent in his attacks 
upon Audubon which were made over Wilson's shoul- 
ders long after that estimable man was laid in the grave, 
the matter was carried too far. Neither of the rivals 
was wholly without fault, and a century is far too long 
to continue any quarrel, especially when one of those 
whose reputation was concerned was never a party to 

Audubon, as we have seen, frankly attributed to per- 
sonal vanity his failure to patronize Wilson's work, 
and added that "even at that time my collections were 
greater than his." But it should be noticed that money 
was far from plentiful with him at that moment. He 
was, in short, at the point of failure in the Louisville 
enterprise, and with Rozier was obliged to move down 
the river not long after the date of Wilson's visit. Au- 
dubon has been represented as at this time a well-to-do 
man of leisure, of fastidious tastes. Nothing could have 
been wider of the mark. He was still more of a sports- 
man than a naturalist, and when not occupied with 
drawing, he spent most of his time in the forest, to the 
neglect of his trade. We may be sure that he was 
quite as used to roughing it as any man on the frontier. 



The Ohio a hundred years ago — Hardships of the pioneer trader — Audu- 
bon's long journeys by overland trail or river to buy goods — The 
"ark" and keelboat — Chief pleasures of the naturalist at Louisville — 
The partners move their goods by flatboat to Henderson, Kentucky, 
and then to Ste. Genevieve, (Missouri) — Held up by the ice — Adventures 
with the Indians — Mississippi in flood — Camp at the Great Bend — 
Abundance of game — Breaking up of the ice — Settle at Ste. Genevieve — 
The partnership dissolved — Audubon's return to Henderson — Rozier's 
successful career — His old store at Ste. Genevieve. 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the banks 
of the Ohio River were but thinly settled, and over vast 
areas the virgin forest still reigned in undisturbed vigor 
and beauty. Yet traders were eagerly pushing west- 
ward in ever growing numbers, and by 1810 Audubon 
and Rozier found that competition at Louisville was 
already keen. This city, «wrote Alexander Wilson in 
describing his experiences in the spring of that year, 
was as large as Frankfort, and possessed a number of 
good brick buildings and valuable shops ; it would have 
been salubrious, he thought, "but for the numerous 
swamps and ponds that intersect the woods in its neigh- 
borhood," and the indifference of the people, whom he 
found too intent upon making money to give any heed 
to the drainage and sanitation of their town. 

The prosperity of the partners, as already intimated, 
was shortlived. Audubon was doubtless right in ad- 
mitting that his business abandoned him because he 
could not bear to give it the necessary attention. The 



conditions of life for the merchant-trader at that early 
day were at best far from easy, and an honest success, 
as then understood, required not only plenty of rough 
work but careful planning as well. His goods, pur- 
chased in the East, were laboriously transported across 
the State of Pennsylvania, and if they came from Phil- 
adelphia they must needs traverse the rough wagon 
roads that led through Bedford to Pittsburgh. There 
was an overland trail from Pittsburgh to Kentucky, 
but merchants with heavy loads would naturally take 
the easier river route. In going east to renew his stock 
in trade, it was a common practice to travel on horseback 
from as far west as St. Louis, but on returning the 
merchant would often sell his mount at Baltimore, Phil- 
adelphia or Pittsburgh, where a boat could be taken 
for the remainder of the journey. 

The "ark" or flatboat was considered most convenient 
for the transportation of either passengers or merchan- 
dise down the Ohio, for any well-to-do traveler, while 
floating leisurely with the current, could make himself 
comfortable by fitting up snug sleeping quarters and 
a kitchen on deck, and could, go ashore at will, with the 
certainty of satisfying his appetite for wild turkey, veni- 
son and other game in the season. Wilson, who de- 
scended the river in April, 1810, boarded and passed 
many of these "arks," which he described as built in 
the form of a parallelogram, from twelve to fourteen 
feet wide and from forty to seventy feet long, with a 
canopy to protect them from the weather; they were 
casually helped along by means of two oars in the bow, 
and steered by another and more powerful one in the 
stern. "Several of these floating caravans," said Wil- 
son, "were loaded with store goods for the supply of 
the settlements through which they passed, having a 


counter erected, shawls, muslins," and the like, "dis- 
played, and everything ready for transacting business. 
On approaching a settlement they blew a tin trumpet, 
which announced to the inhabitants their arrival." These 
"arks," he added, descended from all parts of the Ohio 
and its tributary streams, but in greatest numbers in 
the spring months. Although they cost originally about 
$1.50 per foot of length, when arrived at their destina- 
tion they would seldom bring more than one-sixth of 
that amount. From forty to fifty days were commonly 
required to cover the entire distance of two thousand 
miles from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. 

Another means of conveyance on the river, frequently 
used by Audubon, was the keel boat or barge, which, 
in some cases, was also roofed and would hold about 
two hundred barrels of flour. 1 When assisted by oars in 
the bow, it could reduce the time of a journey to New 
Orleans by ten or fifteen days. These barges were 
pushed up stream with the aid of setting poles at an 
average rate of about twenty miles a day, or, if loaded, 
they were laboriously "cordelled," or drawn by the hands 
of men who trudged along the banks pulling at the cor- 

The chief pleasures which Audubon's business ven- 
tures in the West seem to have afforded him were his 
leisurely journey by river and long horseback rides to 
Philadelphia to buy goods, when he could roam through 
his "beautiful and darling forests of Kentucky, Ohio, 
and Pennsylvania," which gave him grand opportunities 
to make observations upon birds and animal life of 
every sort. He would seldom hesitate to swerve from 
his course to study his favorites, and has related how 
on one occasion, when driving before him several horses 

1 Vincent Nolte, Fifty Years in Both Hemispheres (Bibl. No. 176). 


laden with merchandise and dollars, he quite lost sight of 
the pack saddles and the cash they bore, in watching the 
motions of a warbler. But few coaches, said Audubon, 
were available in those days, and the post roads were 
often unfit for lighter carriages. To cover the distance 
from Louisville to Philadelphia on horseback required 
about twenty days, and only a capable animal and rider 
could make forty miles a day; when steamer traffic on 
the Ohio 2 was well in hand this time was reduced to six 
or seven days, in performing a journey which the mod- 
ern railroad has shortened to not far from as many hours. 
Discouraged by the gloomy prospects which their 
business at Louisville presented, Audubon and Rozier 
determined in the spring of 1810 to move 125 miles 
down the river to Henderson. 3 Loading the residue of 
their stock on a flatboat, they resolutely set out for the 
new field, but great was their surprise to find, in place 
of the thriving settlement which their imaginations had 
pictured, only a cluster of log houses on the river bank, 
with a population of less than 200 people and a demand 
for little else than whisky, gunpowder and coarse woolen 
goods. When the partners arrived, the little town was 
eighteen years old, as the first log cabins were built 
there in 1792, but the whole country above and below 

2 The first steamboat on the Ohio was the Orleans, a vessel of 200- 
400 tons, built at Pittsburgh in the summer and fall of 1811, by Robert 
Fulton and Robert M. Livingston; her first voyage, when she touched at 
Henderson, was signalized, as it seemed to many, by the great earthquakes 
of that year. The first Kentucky steamer was built at Henderson in 1817, 
the same year that a small vessel was constructed by Samuel Bowen 
and J. J. Audubon at the same place (see Chapter XVI). Compare 
Edmund L. Starling, History of Henderson County, Kentucky (Bibl. No. 

3 Known first as Redbank or Redbanks, to distinguish it from Yellow- 
bank, or Owensboro, on a similar bend farther upstream; called also 
Hendersonville, but this term had no official standing. The population of 
Henderson in 1810 is given as 159, and that of the entire county, then 
larger than at present, as 5,000. See Starling, op. cit. 


them was, and for a considerable time remained, one 
vast canebrake. All the commodities known to the pio- 
neer store were scarce, but the people of Henderson 
were friendly, and the new settlers had been provident in 
bringing with them a goodly supply of flour and "bacon 
hams." Moreover, the Ohio, which was half a mile wide 
at that point, was well stocked with fish, and the woods 
and canebrakes were alive with birds, not to speak of 
larger and more important game. Not many years be- 
fore, wild turkeys had been so plentiful that they were 
not sold but were given away, while a large buck deer 
could be bought in the season for fifty cents. 

During their stay at Henderson, Rozier was in his 
habitual place behind the counter and attended to what 
little business was done, while Audubon with a Ken- 
tucky lad named John Pope, who was nominally a 
clerk, roamed the country in eager pursuit of rare birds, 
and with rod and gun bountifully supplied the table. 
Audubon's first abode in the town was, as he said, "a 
log-cabin, not a log-house/' in which the richest piece of 
furniture was their child's cradle. He soon began to 
cultivate a garden, but his experience in horticulture 
must have been limited, for he naively remarks that 
the rankness of the soil kept the seeds they planted 
"far beneath the tall weeds which sprang up the first 

Financial distress and hard times were already being 
felt in the Blue Grass State, and these conditions were 
not destined soon to improve. After experimenting for 
six months, or more, at Henderson, our two "rolling 
stones" determined to push still farther west and try 
their luck at a more promising point. They had hoped 
to reach St. Louis but finally went instead to Ste. Gen- 
evieve, then a small French settlement in Upper Louis- 


iana, on the right bank of the Mississippi, a hundred 
miles north of the mouth of the Ohio. 

This new venture promised to be both hazardous and 
uncertain, and as Mrs. Audubon and Rozier were not 
on the friendliest terms, Audubon decided to leave his 
family at Henderson, where a home for his wife and 
infant son could always be had under the hospitable roof 
of Dr. Adam Rankin, who became one of the naturalist's 
staunchest friends. If their stock in trade at this time 
actually consisted of "three hundred barrels of whisky, 
sundry dry-goods and powder," as Audubon affirmed, 
the keel boat which they then engaged was certainly 
calculated to bear a goodly load. 4 At all events the 
partners, with young Pope, their clerk, set out bravely, 
in a snow storm, in December, 1810. They floated with 
the current at a rate of about five miles an hour, while 
they helped their craft along by means of four oars in 
her bow and steered it with the aid of a slender tree 
trunk, "shaped at its outer extremity like the fin of a 

This journey of upwards of 165 miles lasted altogeth- 
er more than nine weeks. It proved adventurous enough, 
but it was of no use to Audubon except in furnishing 
him with drawings of new birds and the raw materials 
for many "Episodes." The journal of his experiences 
on the great rivers during that eventful winter of 1810 
and 1811 is interesting for the sidelights which it throws 
both upon his character and upon the state of the coun- 
try at an elder day. Held up by the ice for several 
weeks at Cash Creek, near the mouth of the Ohio, to 
his own delight but to Rozier's sorrow, Audubon 
tramped the country and hunted wild swans and larger 
game with the friendly Shawnee Indians. "When one 

4 See Vol. I, p. 235. 


day's sport was over," he said, "we counted more than 
fifty of these beautiful birds whose skins were intended 
for the ladies of Europe. There were plenty of geese 
and ducks, but no one condescended to give them a shot." 
This was Audubon in 1810, when such "sport" was re- 
garded as legitimate enough, and the feather-hunting 
of such Indians was not considered the nefarious trade 
that it proved to be. If we shift the scene to twenty 
years later, when William MacGillivray needed thou- 
sands of specimens of American birds for his studies 
upon their anatomy and variability, we find Audubon 
supplying him liberally, but he could not then bear to see 
them killed wantonly or for mere sport; more than 
once, out of compassion for individual birds that he 
chanced to be studying, whether in Florida or in Labra- 
dor, he would not permit them to be shot even when 
needed for his collections. 

At the Shawnee Indian camp, to relate a character- 
istic anecdote, Audubon noticed that a squaw who "had 
been delivered of beautiful twins during the night" was 
busied on the next day at her usual task of tanning 
deer skins. "She cut two vines," his record reads, "at 
the roots of opposite trees and made a cradle of the bark, 
in which the new born ones were wafted to and fro with 
a push of her hand, while from time to time she gave 
them the breast, and was apparently as unconcerned as 
if the event had not taken place." 

When at last our adventurers gained the Mississippi, 
the mighty volume of which was running three miles an 
hour, the patron ordered all hands ashore to pull at the 
bow rope. This characteristic remark of the naturalist 
is delightful, as showing the "single eye" which it has 
been declared of old shall be "full of light": "we made," 
said Audubon, "seven miles a day up the famous river; 


but while I was tugging with my back at the cordella, I 
kept my eyes fixed on the forests or the ground, looking 
for birds or curious shells." 

Warping against the current was both difficult and 
dangerous, and though they rose two hours before the 
sun, they could make but one mile an hour or ten miles 
in the day. At night they would go ashore, light a 
good fire and cook their supper; then, after posting a 
sentinel to guard against unfriendly surprises, they 
would roll in their buffalo skins and sleep without fur- 
ther concern. Notwithstanding all their efforts, when 
they reached the Great Bend at Tawapatee Bottom, 
they were obliged to unship their cargo, protect their 
boat as best they could from being crushed in the grow- 
ing pack, and await the final breaking up of the ice. "The 
sorrows of Rozier," at this dismal announcement, said 
Audubon, "were too great to be described; wrapped in 
a blanket, like a squirrel in winter quarters with his 
tail about his nose, he slept and dreamed his time away, 
being seldom seen except at meals." There was not a 
white man's cabin within twenty miles, but a new field 
opened to the naturalist, who tramped through the deep 
forests, and soon became acquainted with all the Indian 
trails and lakes in the neighborhood. 

The six weeks spent at this camp passed pleasantly 
for Audubon, who devoted much of the time in studying 
the Osage Indians, whom he thought superior to the 
Shawnees, as well as in watching for wolves, bears, deer, 
cougars, racoons and wild turkeys, some of which were 
attracted by the bones and scraps of food thrown out for 
them: "I drew," said he, "more or less, by the side of our 
great camp-fire, every day." While detained at this 
point, they used for bread the breasts of turkeys, but- 
tered with bear's grease, and opossum and bear's meat, 


until their stomachs revolted and they longed for a little 
Indian meal, which was procured only with the greatest 

When at last the ice broke up, splitting with reports 
like the thunder of heavy artillery, their prospects were 
dismal indeed, for their boat was immediately jammed 
by the rushing ice, and they were powerless to move 
her. "While we were gazing on the scene," to continue 
Audubon's record, "a tremendous crash was heard, 
which seemed to have taken place about a mile below, 
when suddenly the great dam gave way. The current 
of the Mississippi had forced its way against that of 
the Ohio, and in less than four hours we witnessed the 
complete breaking up of the ice." Having reloaded 
their goods, they were ready to start at a favorable mo- 
ment, and taking leave of the friendly Indians, "as when 
brothers part," they pushed on through the floating ice, 
j:>ast Cape Girardeau, to Sainte Genevieve, a town which 
Audubon characterized as "not so large as dirty," de- 
claring that the time spent there did not yield him half 
the pleasure he had felt at Tawapatee Bottom. It was 
near a granite tower which rose from a dangerous rock 
in the river below Ste. Genevieve that Audubon caught 
sight of what he afterwards described as "Washington's 
Eagle," a bird now believed to have been the true "bird 
of freedom," the "Bald-" or White-headed Eagle, but 
in an immature state. 

Though their whisky was welcomed at Ste. Gene- 
vieve and what had cost the traders twenty-five cents, 
brought them two dollars, a gallon, Audubon heartily 
disliked the place and its people. Rozier, on the con- 
trary, who had found plenty of Frenchmen with whom 
he could freely converse, was resolved to stay. Audubon 
accordingly proposed to sell out his share in the business, 


and the partnership was dissolved on April 6, 1811, 
Rozier paying part of the price in cash and the re- 
mainder in notes. In referring to the incident in his 
journal of 1820, Audubon wrote: "I parted with Mr. 
Rozier, and walked to Henderson in four days — 165 




From the Tom J. Rozier MSS. 

miles" ; but this does not agree with a later account, in 
which he spoke of having "purchased a beauty of a 
horse," and, happy in the prospect of again seeing his 
family, set out for Dr. Rankin's house in Kentucky. 
In the earlier record he also wrote that he once had a 
friend in trade, referring to Ferdinand Rozier, "with 
whom he did not agree, and so they parted forever"; 
but Audubon visited Ste. Genevieve in the autumn of 
1811 and in the winter of 1812, probably for the pur- 
pose of collecting his money and settling his affairs, 
while the following letters of this period show that 


friendly relations with his old partner were not seriously 
impaired : 5 

John James Audubon to Ferdinand Rozier 

Louisville. 2d November 1811. 
Mr. F. Rozier 

St. Genevieve. 
My Dear Rozier ; 

I reached here on the 31st of last month a little fatigued, 
as you can well imagine. Yesterday I wrote to T. W. Bake- 
well at New Orleans, and doubt not he is sending you regularly 
the prices current of the market there. I have found here a 
letter addressed to my brother-in-law from Benj. Bakewell, who 
complains of us, and says that we ought to settle with him in 
one way or another; write to him at Pittsburgh; I will be with 
him, possibly at the same time, and will speak with him ; by the 
bill which he inclosed you will see that we are his debtor for 
55$. I am leaving here in 2 or 3 days. I wish you health and 
prosperity, and with the respects of my wife, I am always your 

friend & 


J. Audubon. 
[Addressed] Mr. F d . Rozier 


St Genevieve 

John James Audubon to Ferdinand Rozier 

Shippixgport. 10th. Angst. 1812 

My dear Rozier ; — 

As it is quite likely that the present opportunity is safe, 
I take pleasure in writing you a few words. 

Your letter sent to Philadelphia was duly received, and an- 

5 See translations from copies of the originals, in French, in possession 
of the Louisiana Historical Society, New Orleans, in Appendix I, Document 
No. 21. 


swered promptly ; since I have heard news of you only by the 
most indirect means, I would be happy if you can give a few 
moments to your friends, if you would count me in their 
number, and would write me from time to time; I left Phila- 
delphia last month with my wife and son ; most of this time 
was spent in descending the Ohio, which is at present very low ; 
we had the barge and crew of G[en]l. Clark, with the com- 
pany of Mr. R. A. Maupin, and of Mrs. Gait, who had spent 
several months at New York & at Phil a . I shall probably de- 
scend [the river] to New Orleans this autumn with N. Ber- 
thoud ; [all kinds of] merchandise are extremely scarce and very 
dear, everywhere, but even more is this true of coarse woolens, 
which one does not find at all. 

I have no doubt your lead is selling very well, this article 
having increased considerably [in value] since the war. In the 
latter part of my stay in the East I received a letter from my 
father, and one from your brother; all your family were then 
well, that is, four months ago; your brother is very anxious 
to hear from you ; if peace should come at a day not far remote 
(and may it please God that this be so), I hope to get into 
communication with him. 

I have written to him and I urge you to do the same ; your 
letters can be delivered, if sent to New York, and from thence 
on the Cartel. 6 My wife is well and [so is] my son ; may you 
be the same, and count among the number of your friends him 
who would esteem you always. 


J. Audubon. 

Addressed] Mr s F. Rozier s 

St Genevieve 

Friendly relations with his former partner in trade 
were occasionally renewed by the naturalist in after life. 

"Boat for the exchange of prisoners of war. 


At one of their last meetings, in 1842, Rozier, who had 
then returned from France, visited Audubon at his home 
on the Hudson, and both were entertained in New York 
by their mutual friend, Nicholas Berthoud. 

Ferdinand Rozier, with whom we now part company, 
lived to enjoy abundant prosperity as a trader and mer- 
chant at Ste. Genevieve. Born in Nantes on November 
9, 1777/ at the age of twenty-five he entered the French 
navy, at a time when Napoleon was contesting with 
England the supremacy of the sea. He made numerous 
voyages, and we hear of him at the Cape of Good Hope, 
the Island of France or Mauritius, at Cadiz, Teneriffe, 
and at the Island of Bartholomew. Eventually, on 
April 8, 1804, he embarked on the cutter Experiment, 
with Captain Upton in charge, bound for the United 
States, where he visited a number of American ports, 
including Philadelphia and Norfolk. In the following 
year he returned to France in the frigate President, 
Captain Gallic Lebrosse, and entered the harbor of 
Nantes on March 1, 1805. 8 In the spring of that year 
John James Audubon, as we have seen, had also re- 
turned to that city, and plans were eventually laid for 
their commercial aggrandizement in the New World 
which both had so lately visited. To what extent Au- 
dubon's dreams failed of realization may be gathered 
from the following chapters. 

Having settled finally at Ste. Genevieve, Rozier, at 
thirty-six, married Constance Roy, a girl of eighteen, 
who bore him ten children, four of whom, all octogena- 
rians, were living in 1905. Ferdinand Rozier's thrift 
and industry soon brought him substantial rewards. In 
his earlier days he is said to have made six journeys to 

7 Compare Note, Vol. I, p. 152. 

8 See Note, Vol. I, p. 148. 


Philadelphia on horseback to purchase merchandise, and 
these trading expeditions were uniformly successful. 
His trade extended over the whole of Upper Louisiana, 
and he lived to see the great growth of Missouri as a 
sovereign state, along with the development of the fabu- 
lous mineral wealth of the district. 9 

Rozier's old store at Ste. Genevieve, for long a land- 
mark in that community and considered a pretentious 
building in its day, was undoubtedly built after the 
date of Audubon's visit. The front was devoted to the 
service of customers and a large shed or stock room 
was placed at the rear, while the family lived in the 
main section, which was entered by a door not shown in 
our illustration. 10 When this building was demolished 
to make way for modern changes, the wooden pins used 
in joining the frame were treasured by many as souve- 
nirs of pioneer times. 

Ferdinand Rozier, who outlived Audubon by thirteen 
years, died at Ste. Genevieve on January 1, 1864, at the 
age of eighty-seven years. If he were one of those 
who thought that Audubon was wasting his time in his 
ardent zeal for natural history, it should not surprise 
us, for their ideals were in conflict, and the naturalist's 
way of working was certainly not conducive to success 
in trade. 

9 For this characterization of Ferdinand Rozier I am indebted mainly 
to an account by his son, Firman A. Rozier, at one time mayor of 
Ste. Genevieve and member of the State Legislature; see his History 
of the Early Settlement of the Mississippi Valley (Bibl. No. 202) (St. 
Louis, 1890)1 

10 For a photograph of the old Rozier store at Ste. Genevieve, as well 
as for the likeness of Rozier, made in 1862, when he was in his eighty- 
fifth year, I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. Ruthven Deane, who 
received them from a son of Ferdinand, Felix Rozier, in November, 1905, 
when the latter had attained his eighty-third year. 

~jffici6k*ia6c-t~* > c/%ra 



This and the above published by courtesy of Mr. Ruthven Deane. 



Dr. Rankin's "Meadow Brook Farm" — Birth of John Woodhouse Audu- 
bon — The Audubon-Bakewell partnership — Meeting with Nolte — Failure 
of the commission business— Visit to Rozier — Storekeeping at Hender- 
son — Purchases of land — Habits of frontier tradesmen — Steamboats on 
the Ohio — Popular pastimes — Audubon-Bakewell-Pears partnership— 
Their famous steam mill — Mechanical and financial troubles — Business 
reorganization — Bankruptcy general— Failure of the mill — Personal en- 
counter — Audubon goes to jail for debt. 

The seven years which followed the outbreak of war 
with England in 1812 were the most disastrous in the 
naturalist's career. In many respects they were critical 
for the entire country, since hundreds who were not 
affected directly by the war were ruined by the finan- 
cial troubles which followed in its wake. To Audubon 
reverses came at this time in rapid succession. Bereft 
of one and then another of his children, 1 with his family 
in straitened circumstances in France, and reduced to 
bankruptcy himself, he finally resolved to throw up 
trade, for which he was never fitted, and to make his 
avocation the real business of life. We shall see how, 
by the unstinted use of such talents as he possessed, 
through unremitting effort, and with the aid of his ener- 
getic and capable wife, he was able, at the age of forty- 
five, to turn failure into success. 

After his return to Henderson in the spring of 1811, 
Audubon began to look for another opening in trade, 

1 While living at Henderson the Audubons lost their two daughters, 
Rosa and Lucy, both of whom died when very young. 



living meanwhile with his family at the home of Dr. 
Adam Rankin, called "Meadow Brook Farm." Dr. 
Rankin was the first educated physician in his district, 
and was for many years an officer of the court. A doc- 
tor of the older school and a genuine lover of his kind, 
with a large heart and an open hand, he made his home 
a hostelry where anyone in need could find refuge with- 
out money and without price. No doubt he was at- 
tracted to the naturalist by kindred tastes, and it is 
known that they became life-long friends. The old 
house, to which Audubon refers in one of his "Epi- 
sodes," 2 was built of logs, and stood at some distance 
from the pike, about two miles from the village in a 
southeasterly direction. There were experienced in 
greatest frequency, in the winter of 1811 and 1812, the 
terrific earthquakes that repeatedly shocked the country 
at that time; there also Audubon's younger son, John 
Woodhouse, was born on November 30, 1812. The Ran- 
kin farm became at a much later day the site of the vil- 
lage of Audubon, which still later was to be incorporated 
in the growing city of Henderson, when most of the old 
landmarks had been obliterated. Dr. Rankin built a 
more commodious and pretentious brick house in the 
village itself, and was neighbor to the naturalist for 
many years, their houses being on the same or adjoining 
lots. He was thrice married and had many children, 
the eldest of whom, William Rankin, became Audubon's 
favorite companion in the field ; together they ransacked 
the country for birds and animals of every sort. 

Audubon's unfortunate business relations with his 
brother-in-law, Thomas W. Bakewell, began in the au- 
tumn or winter of 1811, when the naturalist was in the 

2 "The Earthquake," Ornithological Biography (Bibl. No. 2) vol. i, 
p. 280. 


East and Bakewell was about to return to New Orleans 
in the employ of a firm of Liverpool merchants who 
dealt in cotton. Bakewell, who had seen much of the 
South since the failure of his uncle in New York, in- 
duced Audubon to join him in an independent commis- 
sion business, with the assurance that his French 
nationality would help their undertakings. According 
to Vincent Nolte, when they were descending the Ohio 
in December, 1811, Audubon displayed a business card, 
showing the firm name of "Audubon and Bakewell," 
and indicating that they were to deal in such homely 
products as pork, lard and flour. Thomas Bakewell, 
we are told, taking with him all the disposable funds of 
Audubon, who continued to send him "almost all the 
money" that he could raise, oj)ened their business at New 
Orleans in the winter or spring of 1812, just in time for 
the war, which broke out in June, to destroy it. When 
he returned north, in August of that year, Thomas 
Bakewell, said the naturalist, suddenly appeared one 
day at "Meadow Brook Farm," while he was making 
a drawing of an otter, and after bewailing their misfor- 
tune in trade, departed. 

At the approach of spring in 1812 Audubon was hard 
pressed for funds, and Rozier's notes to him being then 
overdue he set out on foot for Ste. Genevieve to collect 
his money in person. He went out with a party of 
friendly Osage Indians, but returned, still afoot and 
unpaid, with his faithful dog as his only companion. 3 
The prairies were then flooded and converted into vast 

3 This journey was probably made in February, though the date 
is given as April (see Maria R. Audubon, Audubon and his Journals, 
vol. i, p. 44), if the legends of four drawings of this time are to be 
trusted; all are labeled Pennsylvania, and bear the following dates: Swamp 
Sparrow, March, 1812; Spotted Sandpiper, April 22, 1812; White-throated 
Sparrow, April 24, 1812; and Whippoorwill, May 7, 1812. 


lakes, but Audubon, anxious to reach his home, pressed 
on, walking, as he said, "one hundred and sixty-five miles 
in a little over three days, much of the time nearly ankle- 
deep in mud and water." It was probably on this jour- 
ney, though it may have been in the previous year, that 
an incident occurred which he has related in "The 
Prairie," 4 when, as he declared, for the first time in 
the course of his wanderings for upwards of a quarter 
of a century, his life was in actual danger from his 
fellow man. 

When at last he had obtained some ready money, Au- 
dubon rode to Louisville, where he purchased on the 
half-cash, half -credit basis a small stock of goods, and 
again set up a retail shop at Henderson. This modest 
venture promised so well that he bought land with the 
intention of making that town his permanent home. 
"I purchased," said he, "a ground-lot of four acres, and 
a meadow of four more at the back of the first." On 
the latter, to follow this account, were several buildings 
and an excellent orchard, "lately the property of an 
English doctor, who had died on the premises and left 
the whole to a servant woman as a gift, from whom it 
came to me as a freehold": other land, he added, adja- 
cent to the first, was later secured. 

These curiously embroidered statements regarding 
land transactions at Henderson in 1813 are not in har- 
mony with the existing records of that frontier town. 
Henderson, as its historian 5 tells us, was laid out orig- 

4 Ornithological Biography (Bibl. No. 2), vol. i, p. 81. In his bio- 
graphical sketch of 1835 Audubon said that this occurred on his first 
return from Ste. Genevieve to Henderson (in 1811), a contradiction char- 
acteristic of his manner of dealing with biographical and historical details. 
For an account of this "Episode," see Chapter XVIII. 

5 For early references to Henderson I am indebted mainly to Edmund 
L. Starling, History of Henderson County, Kentucky (Bibl. No. 186), 
who had access to all the town and county records. 

-^ ) 

<#£ 6£+ 

»<=j-^ ^^ 

yf^y^f. /S^*** *+&*-~ 



From the Tom J. Rozier MSS. 



inally in 1797 into 264 one-acre lots, of which compara- 
tively few had been sold at the time of which we speak, 
though nominal prices were asked and a few had been 
given away to encourage settlement. 6 Audubon is re- 
corded as having purchased four one-acre lots from the 
town, two in 1813 and two in the following year, while 
a long lease was taken upon land adjacent to the river 
where later rose his famous mill. 7 

The old Audubon store for general merchandise, built 
of hewn logs, in a single story, stood at the corner of 
Main and Mill Streets (now Second Street), fronting 
the latter, at a point where a modern departmental 
establishment has since risen. Adjoining this primitive 
store, on the main street, was his log dwelling, 8 of one 
and a half stories, with a square porch at the entrance. 
Immediately opposite, on the two-acre strip of land pur- 
chased in 1814, lay a small pond which Audubon is 
said to have stocked with turtles in order to gratify his 
special fondness for this delicacy. 

Audubon's winning manners made him a popular 

6 In 1819, the year of Audubon's departure, 129 town lots had been 
sold, while 29 had been given to privileged persons or to prospective 

7 According to the town records, as quoted by Starling, on December 
22, 1813, Audubon purchased lots numbers 95 and 96, which were one- 
half of the square lying on the west side of Third Street and between 
Green and Elm Streets, from General Samuel Hopkins, agent of the 
Messrs. Richard Henderson & Company; on September 3, 1814, he bought 
lots numbers 91 and 92, or one-half of the square on the west side of 
Second Street, between Green and Elm. The mill site on the Ohio River 
was a part of the land given to Henderson by the Transylvania Com- 
pany, the original owners of a large part of Kentucky; this site was 
leased for 99 years to J. J. Audubon, was sold and resold, but reverted 
to the city of Henderson in 1915. In the latter year the project was 
broached of obtaining the original mill site, together with adjoining prop- 
erty along the river, and converting the whole into a public park dedicated 
to Audubon. 

* At a somewhat later time the naturalist occupied a one-story frame 
house, built in 1814, which stood at the corner of Fourth and Main Streets; 
see Starling, op. cit. 


figure among the early settlers of this region, and for 
the space of three years he enjoyed life as never before; 
"the pleasures," he said, "which I have felt at Hender- 
son, and under the roof of that log-cabin, can never be 
effaced from my heart until after death." But in a 
community of exacting business men he could never 
have made a permanent success; he was too good a 
target not to be riddled by many who were ready to 
take advantage of his liberality and easygoing ways. 
Traveling from Frankfort to Lexington in 1810, Wil- 
son complained that the people were all traders but 
no readers, even of the newspaper; every man, he 
said, had "either some land to buy or sell, some law-suit, 
some coarse hemp or corn to dispose of; and if the 
conversation does not to lead to any of these, he will 
force it." 

Many stories, and no doubt much idle gossip, concern- 
ing Audubon's life and habits, were current at Hen- 
derson long after he left the village. It was said that 
he would often go into the woods in his pursuit of birds 
and remain from home for weeks at a time ; that he was 
once known to have followed a hawk for three days in 
succession and in practically a straight course, swimming 
creeks when necessary, until it finally fell to his gun. 
When steamboats made their first appearance on the 
Ohio, they naturally excited the greatest interest, and 
a favorite pastime of many of the men and boys was 
diving from the side of a boat into the river. On one 
of these occasions Audubon is said to have made his 
appearance in the crowd of sightseers and to have as- 
tonished everyone by plunging from the bow and emerg- 
ing from beneath the stern of the vessel after swimming 
under her entire length. According to traditional ac- 
counts, Mrs. Audubon, who was also an expert swimmer, 


would enter the river clad in a regular bathing costume 
and cross with ease to the Indiana shore. 

In spite of the hard times Audubon managed to keep 
out of serious business troubles until he entered into 
another partnership with Thomas Bakewell, his brother- 
in-law. Their project in this second association was to 
erect a steam lumber and grist mill at Henderson, which 
of all mortal follies the naturalist considered in the retro- 
spect to have been one of the worst. It is recorded that 
on the sixteenth day of March, 1817, John James Au- 
dubon and Thomas W. Bakewell, under the designation 
of "Audubon and Bakewell," applied to the trustees of 
the village for a ninety-nine year lease of a section of 
land on the river front. Their petition was granted, 
upon a consideration of $20 per annum, and the part- 
ners began to build their mill on the property and com- 
pleted it within that year. Thomas W. Pears, 9 a former 
fellow-clerk of both Audubon and Bakewell in New 
York, early joined the enterprise, which was regarded 
at the time as one of considerable magnitude. Their 
mill, which stood for ninety-five years, became famous 
in the annals of the Ohio Valley. 10 Said the historian of 
Henderson County, writing in 1879: 

The weather boarding, whip-sawed out of yellow poplar, is 
still intact on three sides. The joists are of unhewn logs, many 
of them over a foot in diameter, and raggedly rough. The 
foundation walls are built of flat, broken rock and are four and 
a half feet thick. Mr. Audubon operated the mill on a large 
scale for those times. His grist-mill was a great convenience, 
and furnished a ready market for all of the surplus wheat 
raised in the surrounding country. His saw-mill also was a 
wonderful convenience, doing the sawing for the entire county. 

9 See Note 15, Vol. I, p. 124. 

10 A Henderson correspondent of Joseph M. Wade, under the signature 
of "W. S. J.," August 8, 1883, gave the following account of the structure. 



Alter a photograph of 1894, published by courtesy of Dr. B. W. Evermann. 


Mr. and Mrs. Pears, who had no liking for Hender- 
son, early withdrew and sold their interest in the mill xl 
to Audubon and Bakewell, thus adding to their financial 
embarrassment. The engines, which seem to have given 
no end of trouble, were constructed by David Prentice, 
an intelligent Scotch mechanic; since his first work after 
coming to this country was to erect a steam threshing 
mill at "Fatland Ford," his services were probably se- 
cured by William Bakewell, who afterwards helped to 
establish him at Philadelphia. While at Henderson he 
is said to have fitted a small engine and paddlewheels to 
a keel boat, which was christened the Pike, and to 
have taken it up the river to Pittsburgh. Prentice 
seems to have entered the partnership and to have re- 
tired with Bakewell. 

In order to extend the sphere of their operations, Au- 
dubon is said to have purchased at this time a tract of 
1,200 acres of government land, 12 and to have engaged a 
band of stalwart Yankees to fell and deliver the timber. 
According to one account, they were a party of emi- 
grants who had come to Henderson with their families 
and encamped on the river bank. For a time all went 
well, but one day when they failed to deliver their usual 

The original mill covered forty-five by sixty-five feet, and consisted of four 
stories and basement; the basement walls of stone stood four feet thick, 
while at the third story the thickness was three feet; the three upper 
stories were in frame. The studding measured three by six, and the rafters 
four by eight, inches. Many of the large timbers that could then be 
seen were sound and apparently good for a century or more. Parts of the 
old machinery that had been used in the grist mill were lying about under 
the eaves; the building was then used as a tobacco stemmery. See Joseph 
M. Wade (Bibl. No. 182), Ornithologist and Oologist, vol. viii, p. 79 (1883). 

The old Audubon mill in more recent times was incorporated into 
a warehouse for the storage of leaf tobacco; it was burned to the 
ground on March 18, 1913. 

"The mill is supposed to have cost about $15,000; of this sum Thomas 
Pears is said to have contributed from $3,000 to $4,000, and William 
Bakewell a similar amount in the interest of his son, while Audubon 
presumably furnished the balance. 

13 Maria R. Audubon, op. cit., vol. i, p. 47. 


supply of logs, it was found that they had decamped 
and fled down the river towards the Mississippi, taking 
on their flatboat Audubon's draft oxen and in fact all 
the plunder that they could lift. Nothing was ever 
recovered and but one of the fugitives was ever seen 
again; this man boarded a river boat on which the nat- 
uralist happened to be traveling, and it is said that upon 
being recognized he jumped into the river and swam 
to the shore like a frightened deer. 

When Bakewell finally withdrew, Audubon appears 
to have been left stranded, and the business was taken 
over by a new set of men, including another brother-in- 
law, Nicholas Berthoud, and Benjamin Page of Pitts- 
burgh, who continued it under the name of J. J. Audu- 
bon & Company. 13 Agents were also secured at various 
points on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Excepting, 
as we must assuredly do, his ever staunch friend, Nicho- 
las Berthoud, Audubon believed that he was "gulled by 
all of these men." 

In 1818 a new era of building and general prosperity 
seemed to dawn in the valley of the Ohio. A new bank 
was chartered at Henderson, and the woodwork of its 
brick structure was furnished by Audubon's mill. 14 

"In his journal of 1820 Audubon said that after the withdrawal of 
Bakewell, "men with whom I had long been associated offered me a 
partnership. I accepted, and a small ray of light appeared in my busi- 
ness, but a revolution occasioned by a numberless quantity of failures put 
all to an end." 

"One of J. J. Audubon & Company's bills is here reproduced from 

Starling, op. cit. 

"To the President and Directors of the Bank of Henderson 
to Henderson steam mill: 

"To three pieces of scantling, 56 feet, 4y 2 c $ 2.52 

"To ten pieces of scantling, 34 feet 

"To sixty rafters, 714 feet, at 4 c 28.56 

"To five pieces scantling, 40 feet, at 3 c 1.20 

"To fifteen joists [ ?], 278y 2 feet, at 6 c 16.71 

"J. J. Audubon & Co." $48.99 


This bank, however, failed in the course of two 
years, and forty others scattered throughout that sec- 
tion broke in rapid succession, after having done little 
more than add to the flood of worthless paper notes that 
was demoralizing business and sending hundreds into 

The mill was in operation barely two years. The ma- 
chinery, of which a wooden bolting shaft and wooden 
cog wheels remained as a curiosity to recent times, seems 
to have worked badly from the start. But aside from 
the inexperience of the builders and the financial trou- 
bles of the day, the enterprise was foredoomed to fail- 
ure in a district which raised but little wheat, and in 
which the demand for lumber was then comparatively 
slight. "How I labored," said Audubon, "at that in- 
fernal mill! But it is over now; I am old, and try to 
forget as fast as possible all the different trials of those 
sad days." 

In the course of the Audubon and Bakewell partner- 
ship 15 the naturalist became involved in a personal quar- 
rel with a man whose initials are given as "S 

B ." It seems that in 1817 Audubon's mechanic, 

David Prentice, had built for him a small steamboat, 
though for what purpose is not known. When their in- 
terests were severed, we are told, Mr. B purchased 

this steamer, but paid for it in worthless paper. The 
captain of the craft ran her down to the Mississippi and 
thence to New Orleans, and Audubon, who was deter- 
mined to arrest this man if necessary, started in pursuit 
in a skiff. He failed, however, to overhaul the fugitive, 
and reached New Orleans only to find that his vessel 

"According to W. G. Bakewell, Bakeivell-Page-Campbell (Bibl. No. 
200), Thomas Bakewell sold his interest in the store and mill to Audubon 
in 1817, but this is contradicted by other accounts. For the incident which 
follows, see Maria R. Audubon, op. cit., vol. i, p. 34. 


had been surrendered to another claimant. This was 
probably in May, 1819, for in his journal of the follow- 
ing year, under date of November 23, when he was again 
moving down the rivers but in more leisurely fashion, 
he speaks of two large eagle's nests, one of which he 
remembered having seen as he "went to New Orleans 
eighteen months" before. 

Through the researches of a later historian I am now 
able to give a more exact account of this affair. The 
purchasers of the steamboat were William R. Bowen, 
Samuel Adams Bowen, Robert Speed, Edmund 
Townes, Obediah Smith, George Brent and Bennett 
Marshall, who immediately sued Audubon in the sum of 
$10,000, on the plea that he had maliciously taken out 
an attachment upon the vessel in New Orleans, where it 
had been detained. They represented to the judge of 
the circuit court, Henry P. Broadnax, that Audubon 
was about to leave Kentucky, and a warrant was issued 
to arrest him ; he was taken into custody, said the narra- 
tor whom I am following, "but executed a bail bond in 
the sum of $10,000 with Fayette Posey as surety, and 
was released." Convinced that a trial at Henderson 
would lead only to a defeat of justice, Audubon now 
served notice that he would apply for a change of venue 
to another county. "That notice together with the other 
papers in the action, is among the records of the Daviess 
circuit court, at Owensboro, Kentucky. It was written 
and signed by Audubon. Application for a change of 
venue was made at Hardinsburg and the case was trans- 
ferred to the Daviess circuit court." When the case was 
called, the plaintiffs asked for a continuance, and it was 
granted them, but when the case was called again at the 
next term of court, the plaintiffs failed to appear, and 
the action was finallv dismissed. 


Returning home, Audubon was obliged to walk from 
the mouth of the Ohio River to Shawnee Town. Upon 
reaching Henderson he found that Mr. Bowen had an- 
ticipated him. Acting upon advice, he was prepared for 
an encounter with this man, who as his neighbors de- 
clared, had sworn to kill him, and "whose violent and 
ungovernable temper was only too well known." The 
anticipated encounter ensued. Audubon, who was then 
carrying his right hand in a sling from a recent injury 
received in his mill, waited, as he said, until he had re- 
ceived twelve severe blows from his assailant's bludgeon ; 
then with his left hand he drew a dagger and struck in 
his own defense. His assailant was felled to the ground, 
but happily the wound inflicted was not mortal. Mr. 
Bowen was carried away on a plank, and when the affair 
was settled in the judiciary court, according to a Hen- 
derson tradition, Judge Broadnax gravely left the 
bench, approached the man who had been under charge 
of assault, and said: "Mr. Audubon, you committed a 
serious offense — an exceedingly serious offense Sir — in 

failing to kill the d rascal." 16 "Thomas Bakewell," 

added the naturalist, "who possessed more brains than I, 
sold his town lots and removed to Cincinnati, where he 
has made a large fortune, and I am glad of it. 17 

When the mill was finally closed and the company 
dissolved in 1819, Audubon as usual was the heaviest 


See Dixon L. Merritt (Bibl. No. 226a), "Audubon in Kentucky," 
The Taylor-Trotwood Magazine, vol. 10 (1909), p. 293. 

17 Thomas Bakewell later became a successful builder of steamboats, 
first at Pittsburgh, and after 1824 at Cincinnati, where he was an im- 
portant factor in the rising commerce of the Ohio Valley, and where 
he left his mark on the history of that city. As a theoretical mechanic 
in iron and wood he is said to have had no superior; his business was 
nearly destroyed in the panic of 1837, and he never regained his financial 
position. To his credit also it must be added that in 1860, at the age 
of seventy-two, he began at the bottom of the ladder again by engaging 
as a clerk with a paper company at Cincinnati, and, refusing the proffered 


loser. Arrested and sent to the Louisville jail for debt, 
he was able to obtain release only by declaring himself 
a bankrupt in court. "I paid all I could," 1S he said in 
his journal of the following year, "and left Henderson 
poor and miserable in thought. My intention to go to 
France and see my mother and sister was frustrated, 
and at last I resorted to my poor talents to maintain 
you and your dear mother, who fortunately became easy 
at her change of condition, and gave me a spirit such 
as I really needed, to meet the surly looks and cold re- 
ception of those who so shortly before were pleased to 
call me their friend." "I parted," to revert to his later 
account, "with every particle of property I held, to my 
creditors, keeping only the clothes I wore on that day, 
my original drawings, and my gun." Without a dollar 
in his pocket he left Henderson and walked to Louisville 
alone; "this," he said on reflection, "was the saddest of 
all my journies, the only time in my life when the Wild 
Turkeys that so often crossed my path, and the thou- 
sands of lesser birds that enlivened the woods and the 
prairies, all looked like enemies, and I turned my eyes 

aid of his children, he did not give up work until his eightieth year, seven 
years before his death in 1874. See W. G. Bakewell, Bakeioell-Page- 
Campbell (Bibl. No. 200). 

18 Audubon was not so accurate when in his biographical sketch of 
1835 he said: "Finally I paid every bill, and at last left Henderson 
probably forever . . . ," for when at Charleston with Bachman in 1834, 
one of his former creditors attempted to sue him for debt and apparently 
carried his case to court. When Bachman asked for an explanation, 
Audubon wrote from New York, April 5, 1834, as follows: "Respecting 
the suit let me tell you . . . that I went to Gaol at Louisville after having 
given up all to my creditors, and that I took the benefit of the act of 
insolvency at the Louisville Court House, Kentucky, before Judge Fortunatus 
Crosby & many witnesses, and that a copy of the record of that step 
can easily be had from that court ... I wish friend Donkin to do all 
he can to put a Conclusion— stop to this matter, for it makes me sick 
at heart." The lawyer here referred to was probably Judge Dunkin, 
friend of Bachman and distinguished in his profession, who had a planta- 
tion at Waccamaw, near Charleston, South Carolina (see Chapter XXVII, 
Vol. II, p. 64. 


from them, as if I could have wished that they never 

Passing down the Ohio in the following year Audu- 
bon made these entries in his diary: 

November 2nd, 1820. Floated down slowly within two miles 
of Henderson. I can scarcely conceive that I stayed there 
eight years, and passed therein comfortably, for it is undoubt- 
edly on the poorest spot in the country, according to my pres- 
ent opinion. 

Nov. 3rd, 18°20. We left our harbor at daybreak, and 
passed Henderson about sunrise. I looked on the mill perhaps 
for the last time, and with thoughts that made my blood al- 
most run cold bit it an eternal farewell. 



Death of Lieutenant Audubon — Contest over his will — Disposition of his 
estate — The fictitious $17,000 — Unsettled claims of Formon and Ross — 
Illusions of biographers — Gabriel Loyen du Puigaudeau — Audubon's 
relations with the family in France broken — Death of the naturalist's 
stepmother — The du Puigaudeaus — Sources of "enigma." 

Lieutenant Jean Audubon, as already recorded, died 
at Nantes in 1818, at a time when his son's financial 
troubles in America were culminating, and left an estate, 
then none too large, for the sole enjoyment of his widow 
during her lifetime. The naturalist, so far as is known, 
never received a penny in payment of bequests made by 
either his father or stepmother, but the reasons for this 
fact were far different from those which his biographers 
have assigned. 

We have referred to the curious wording which 
appears in the six different wills that were executed by 
Lieutenant Jean Audubon and Anne Moynet, his wife, 
between the years 1812 and 1821. x The first four of 
these documents 2 were of a mutual nature, and were 
so drawn that the survivor should enjoy the entire 
property of the other during his or her lifetime, but this 
eventually was to be divided between their two children, 
or heirs of the latter should any exist. In Jean Audu- 
bon's last will, made at Coueron on the 15th of March, 

1 See Chapter IX, p. 63. 

2 For complete text of these wills, in the original, See Appendix I, 
Documents 13-18. 



1816, he added the provision that in case his "disposi- 
tions in favor of Jean Rabain and Rose Bouffard, wife 
of Loyen du Puigaudeau, should be attacked and an- 
nulled," he bequeathed his entire estate, without excep- 
tion, to his wife, Anne Moynet, for her sole use. His 
fears, as already intimated, were well grounded, and 
his will was immediately contested by four nieces, 
Mme. Lejeune de Vaugeon of Nantes, Mme. Jean 
Louis Lissabe, whose husband was a pilot, and Anne 
and Domenica Audubon, seamstresses at Bayonne. 3 
This trial dragged on in the courts for a long time, and 
served further to impoverish Madame Audubon, who 
was obliged to dispose of most of her valuable effects, 
but it was finaly settled by a compromise in 1820. In 
that year, at the age of eighty-five, she left "La Ger- 
betiere" to live with her daughter and son-in-law at 
"Les Tourterelles" close by, where she remained until 
her death on October 18, 1821. 

It seems incredible that Audubon should not have 
heard of the death of his foster mother, since he had been 
devotedly attached to her in his youth and was moreover 
a beneficiary under her will. Yet on August 6, 1826, 
he wrote in his journal: "My plans now are to go to 
Manchester, to Derbyshire to visit Lord Stanley, Bir- 
mingham, London for three weeks, Edinburgh, back to 
London, and then to France, Paris, Nantes, to see my 
venerable stepmother, Brussels, and return to Eng- 
land." On September 30 of the same year he wrote 
from Liverpool: "I long to enter my old garden on 
the Loire and with rapid steps reach my mother, — yes, 
my mother! the only one I truly remember; and no son 

3 See Note 4, Vol. I, p. 27. The suit brought by these plaintiffs was based 
upon a French law, which at that time debarred a natural child from 
inheriting property. 


ever had a better, nor more loving one." 4 Again in 
1828 he spoke of this estimable woman as if she were 
then alive, although she had been dead seven years. 

In Madame Audubon's last will, which was made in 
the July preceding her death, she left her property to 
be equally divided between her two adopted children, 
"Mr. Jean Audubon, called Jean Rabin, husband of 
Lucy Bakewell, and who I believe is at present in the 
United States of America, and to Rose Bouffard, wife 
of M. Gabriel Loyen du Puigaudeau, my son-in-law, 
who is living at Coueron"; she also took care to guard 
against the pretensions of any spurious heirs, and to 
make provision for her grandchildren in case of the 
death of either or both of her heirs direct. 

Having given the precise, if somewhat prosaic, re- 
corded facts of the case, we will quote the story nar- 
rated by the naturalist's biographers, who never could 
have seen the legal documents and who thus had only 
hearsay and conjecture on which to build: 

At this juncture [of critical business affairs at Henderson], 
the father of Audubon died; but for some unfortunate cause 
he did not receive legal notice for more than a year. On be- 
coming acquainted with the fact he traveled to Philadelphia to 
obtain funds, but was unsuccessful. His father had left him his 
property in France of La Gibitere [Gerbetiere], and seven- 
teen thousand dollars which had been deposited with a mer- 
chant in Richmond, Virginia. Audubon, however, took no steps 
to obtain possession of his estate in France, and in after years, 
when his sons had grown up, sent one of them to France, for 
the purpose of legally transferring the property to his own 
sister Rosa. The merchant who held possession of the seventeen 
thousand dollars would not deliver them up until Audubon 

4 Maria R. Audubon, Audubon and his Journals (Bibl. No. 86), vol. i, 
pp. iii and 130. 




proved himself to be the son of Commodore Audubon. Before 
this could be done the merchant died insolvent, and the legatee 

never recovered a dollar of his money. 5 


A key to the origin of the fictitious seventeen thou- 
sand dollars is probably to be found in the letters of 
Jean Audubon to Francis Dacosta, written in 1805, 6 
where he refers to certain unsettled business claims 
against his former partners, Messrs. Formon and Ross, 
Mho had been respectively interested with him in two 
vessels, L,e Comte d'Artois and the Annette, the history 
of which has already been noticed. 7 They were also en- 
gaged at a later time in certain iron-works above Rich- 
mond, Virginia, but with these Lieutenant Audubon was 
not directly concerned. Formon, his partner in Santo 
Domingo trade, who was charged with having drawn 
$1,650 in excess of his share, had died without making 
any final settlement of their accounts; another asso- 
ciate, Edward, had died in London leaving an unset- 
tled claim of $300; while David Ross, who was owing 
a certain sum, had also died without liquidating his debt. 
The amount of the latter claim probably was not large, 
since Dacosta was instructed to use this sum for his 
needs in developing the mine at "Mill Grove" should 
he be so fortunate as to collect it; "when you receive my 
papers from Miers Fisher," said Lieutenant Audubon 
in his letter of the 22d of June, 1805, "you will find a 
promissory note of Mr. Samuel Plaisance of Richmond, 
for the business of the widow Ross. If there were jus- 
tice there this sum should be paid to me with the costs." 

Lieutenant Audubon was never able to collect these 

5 Lucy B. Audubon, ed., The Life of John James Audubon (Bibl. No. 
73), p. 55. 

6 See Chapter VIII, p. 121. 

' See Chapter II, pp. 33 and 34. 


different amounts, which probably did not much exceed 
$2,000, but an echo of one of these transactions ap- 
peared as late as 1819, when Audubon's brother-in-law 
sent him a document referring to the claim on the Ross 
estate, in the hope that some money might still be forth- 
coming, writing as follows : 8 

In turning over some letters I have found a letter of Mr. 
David Rost [Ross], and a memorandum that I thought pointed 
to what was referred to in it. As I have sometimes heard it 
said that this Mr. David Rost owed a considerable sum, it 
should be possible that this letter, which is in English, might 
be of use to you. I cannot say anything about it, not knowing 
your language, and not having ventured to get it translated, 
from fear of compromising us, I am sending it to you, [and] 
you will judge of its importance. Should chance will that it 
bring you money, send me some of it, I beg you, for I am in 
great need of it. 

The same biographer whom we have just quoted 
said in reference to "La Gerbetiere" : "This estate was 
left by Commodore Audubon to his son John James, 
who conveyed it to his sister without even visiting the 
domain he so generously willed away." We have now 
seen what provisions were actually made for the dis- 
position of this property under the terms of the various 
wills of Lieutenant Audubon and his wife. We need 
only add that not long after his father's death, the nat- 
uralist lost touch with his family in France; his one- 
half interest in his stepmother's estate, which was heav- 
ily encumbered, was never claimed, and at a much later 
day was informally relinquished in favor of his sister 
and her family. 

8 From G. L. du Puigaudeau's copy of his letter to John James Audu- 
bon (at Henderson), dated "Coueron, August 15, 1819," translated from 
the French. (Lavigne MSS.) 


During his Henderson period Audubon was in 
communication with his brother-in-law, Gabriel Loyen 
du Puigaudeau, who kept him informed in regard to 
all that transpired in their French home; on July 26, 
1817, the naturalist had given him a power of attorney, 
the curious wording of which has already been noticed. 9 
Whether deterred by the legal complications which soon 
followed, displeased by the mode of settlement, or for 
what other cause now unknown to us, Audubon seems 
to have severed all relations with his family at Coueron, 
or to have written to them only after long lapses of 
silence. On New Year's Day, 1820, Gabriel du Puigau- 
deau dispatched to him a friendly letter 10 of greeting : 

I take the opportunity at the renewal of the year, to offer 
you the good wishes of the entire family. Our every desire is 
that you, your beloved wife, and dear children may be happy, 
that you may prosper, that you may enjoy good health, and 
this is the wish of your nieces also. But, awaiting the pleasure 
of seeing you all, by what fatality during the past eighteen 
months have I not had any news of you, why no reply to at 
least twenty letters that I have written to you? Can I have 
been so unfortunate that some one has given you any report 
that would prejudice you against me? I do not believe that 
there could exist any one who would be able to do this, at least 
with truth ; if some one has really sought to estrange your 
friendship for me, act with frankness, and tell me your sus- 
picions. I do not believe it would be difficult to destroy them, 
and I even promise that I would offer you no reproach for 
having momentarily believed it, should this after all have oc- 
curred. For what concerns our business affairs, I refer you to 
my letters which have preceded this. 

9 See Vol. I, p. 64. 

10 This, and the letter to follow, translated from Gabriel du Puigau- 
deau's copies. (Lavigne MSS.) 


This letter was sent to Henderson, Kentucky, more 
than a year after the naturalist had finally left that 
state; at the moment it was written he was making his 
way down the Ohio River to New Orleans in a flathoat, 
"the poorest man aboard," as he thought at the time. 
Writing in his journal on December 26, 1820, when 
they had touched at Natchez, Audubon said that on 
that day he had received letters from his wife, who was 
then at Cincinnati, written on November 7 and 14, and 
that the last "contained one from my brother, G. Loyen 
Dupuigaudeau, dated July 24, 1820." If the month in 
this instance was misnamed, this might have been the 
following letter, which was written at Coueron on the 
twenty-fourth of June, 1820, and sent to Henderson 
like the last. 

Two years have passed without our having any news of 
you. What a long lapse of time, and in what anxiety are we 
plunged! In God's name give us some news about yourself, if 
it be but a word to set us at rest in regard to your condition. 
I should not know how to persuade myself that you were not 
on friendly terms with me, since I have given you no cause 
[for grievance] ; if it is so, be generous enough to relieve me 
from this anxiety. The business matters of Mr. Audubon are 
at last concluded, and I await only the return of the papers 
from Cayes to set them in order with justice [to all]. 11 

Profiting by an opportunity for New York, I have only 
time to refer to my letters of 15 September, 30 October, 19 
December, 1818, 1st February, 15 April, 15 May, 3d August, 
1819, in all their contents. 

Madam Audubon is coming to live with us ; she found her- 
self isolated at "La Gerbetiere," and was very dull there; I 
wish that she may be contented here. She does not cease to 

"This reference is evidently to the litigation over Lieutenant Audu- 
bon's will and the final disposition of his estate. 


speak of you, and is as much astonished as I am that we re- 
ceive no news of you. 

The naturalist's elder son, Victor, visited Coueron 
about the year 1835, when his cousin, Gabriel Loyen du 
Puigaudeau the second, who was nearly of the same age, 
returned from military service to meet him. He was 
disappointed at the appearance of his father's old home, 
"La Gerbetiere," which had not been occupied by the 
family for fifteen years. 12 

Rosa Audubon du Puigaudeau, the naturalist's sis- 
ter, died at "Les Tourterelles" after August 3, 1842, 
leaving a daughter, Rose du Puigaudeau, who died 
without issue, October 20, 1881, and, if we are correctly 
informed, one son, Gabriel Loyen du Puigaudeau the 
second, who died at "Les Tourterelles," Coueron, June 
23, 1892, when past his eightieth year; a daughter of 
this only son was married to Monsieur L. Lavigne, 
notary at Coueron. At the time of her uncle's death, 
his property, including the personal records of Lieuten- 
ant Jean Audubon, passed into the hands of Madame 
Lavigne, who is a grand step-niece of the naturalist, and 
who aside from her children, so far as known, is the 
only surviving member of his family in France. 

At this point we must examine a little more care- 
fully the peculiar status of what Audubon referred to 

12 It was thought that Victor had come to settle the family's financial 
affairs, and his uncle and aunt asked if this were the case; he replied 
that it was not, that the children of Jean Audubon who were in America 
had taken their [share of the] property in that country, while those in 
France had theirs in France; he considered that all was settled, but if 
Rosa's children wished for any money, they had but to ask for it, and 
the heirs in America would send them what they desired; the subject 
was then dropped. A considerable correspondence followed this visit, but 
the letters were all destroyed about twenty-five years ago by Monsieur du 
Puigaudeau, when putting his effects in order. This account is given on 
the authority of Monsieur Lavigne. 


as the "enigma" of his life. In some of his private 
journals and letters 13 he dramatically declared that a 
mystery had surrounded his early existence, which he 
was bound by a solemn oath exacted by his father never 
to reveal, and that this secret must be carried by him 
to the grave. If it be the duty of a biographer to make 
the true character of his subject known, the passage of 
time would now seem to sanction reference to many 
personal matters which a century ago should have been 
more rigidly guarded. I enter upon this task solely 
with the view of placing Audubon's character in a truer 
and fairer light. 

The essential facts regarding Audubon's birth and 
early years have now been given, and this is the true, 
though possibly not the complete, story. Anything 
which we now add, however, can be regarded as little 
better than speculation. Audubon is said to have received 
through his father a large sum of money from an un- 
known or unnamed source, 14 but as such stories are apt 
to be exaggerated, especially when an ocean intervenes 
between a testator and his heir, the statement may be 
erroneous ; we have seen that Lieutenant Audubon was 
not in a position to make such gifts himself had he been 
so disposed. If the report were true, the money may 
have come from the estate of his mother, and through 
the agency of the mysterious "Audubon of La Ro- 

13 These passages, which were shown to me by his granddaughter, Miss 
Maria R. Audubon, in 1914, but not for publication, occur in his journals 
under the following dates; June 4, 1826, at sea; March 15, 1827, at Edin- 
burgh, after describing a visit of Lady Selkirk and her daughter; again 
on the 18th of March of the same or the following year; and on October 
8, 1828, when writing to his wife from Paris and reflecting on the advisabil- 
ity of visiting his old home at Nantes. While these extraordinary passages 
are not quoted, out of deference to the wishes of his granddaughters, it 
seems only just to Audubon, in view of the revelations that have already 
been made, to add this brief reference to the incidents in question. 

14 This statement was made to me in 1914 by Miss Maria R. Audubon. 


chelle," who is said to have been a politician. 15 In some 
of the passages which we do not quote, the naturalist 
would have his family believe that he was of noble birth, 
that his adoptive father was not his true father, and 
that both he and Lieutenant Audubon had received 
irremediable injury through the treachery of the mys- 
terious uncle, "Audubon of La Rochelle." Now these 
strange statements of the naturalist, though not in 
accord with the facts as they are known to us, should be 
interpreted, I believe, in the light of possible stories that 
may have come to him in the glamour of his youth; his 
mind may have been diverted by them, he may have 
believed them, but of this nothing now can positively 
be known. To continue our conjectures, it is possible 
that the plain conflict between these supposititious tales 
and the facts that were revealed at his adoption, his 
baptism, and in the wills of his father and stepmother, 
as well as by the lawsuit which followed the former's 
death, all led him to resort to "enigma." We should 
also remember that the naturalist, who was careless of 
dates and historical facts, had finally left his home at 
the age of twenty, when young men as a rule are not 
curious about their family history, and that he reached 
the reminiscent stage late in life. It seems probable 
that the wording of his father's will and the later at- 
tempt to annul it finally induced him to wash his hands 
of the whole matter, even to breaking off relations with 
his family in France. Feeling, as undoubtedly he did, 
that public knowledge of those conditions, for which 
he was in no way responsible, might be a bar to all 
future aspirations, he was not loath to let the matter 
rest, so far as he and his immediate family were con- 
cerned, under a cloak of mystery. If such were in truth 

15 See Note, Vol. I, p. 27. 


the case, I think few would find cause to blame him- 
When we view the whole subject in this double light, 
of a duty owed to his family and of the possibility that 
conflicting stories had come to him at an earlier day, 
any embroidery or confusion which appears in many of 
his statements of a personal nature can be better under- 
stood. Such an explanation would be quite convincing 
if payments had actually come to him from his own 
mother's estate. 

We will only add that Mrs. Audubon, who seemed 
to have shared her husband's intimate thoughts, ap- 
parently believed to the last in his high birth. When 
her younger son, John Woodhouse Audubon, lay at the 
point of death, in February, 1862, she was summoned 
to his bedside, but reached it too late to see him alive; 
upon entering the room Mrs. Audubon is said to have 
exclaimed: "Oh, my son, my son! you died and never 



Methods of composition — "A Wild Horse" — Henderson to Philadelphia in 
1811 — Records of Audubon and Nolte, fellow travelers, compared — 
The great earthquakes — The hurricane — The outlaw — Characterization 
of Daniel Boone — Desperate plight on the prairie — Regulator law in 
action — Frontier necessities — The ax married to the grindstone. 

Audubon's sketches of life and scenery in America, 
which he designated as "Episodes," were interspersed 
in his Biography of birds x to brighten the narrative 
and beguile the reader. Extending to the number of 
sixty, and dealing mainly with events between the years 
1808 and 1834, they abound in tales of adventure and 
graphic pictures of pioneer life which for their per- 
sonal charm, local coloring, and human interest are 
worthy of high praise. Some of these sketches have 
been copied widely and some have been translated into 
Audubon's native tongue; some have even found their 
way into schoolbooks. While they have deservedly won 
the naturalist many readers, not a few have subjected 
him to harsh criticism on the score of too vivid coloring 
or historical inaccuracy, a fault to which he was par- 
ticularly prone. Whenever Audubon went directly to 
nature to exercise his pencil or brush or wrote with his 
subject before him, he was truth itself, but in writing 
offhand and from memory of past events he was wont 

1 In the first three volumes only of the Ornithological Biography 
(Bibl. No. 2), being omitted from the last two on account of the 
exigencies of space. 



to humor his fancy, disregarding dates as readily as 
he did the accents on French words. This tendency is 
particularly apparent in the accounts of some of his 
early adventures in the western country, such as "Louis- 
ville in Kentucky" (1808-10), "The Prairie" (1812), 
"A Wild Horse" (1811-13), and "The Eccentric Nat- 
uralist" (1818), the history of which is detailed in the 
following chapter. We shall examine some of these 
stories at this point, though their composition belongs to 
a later period, in order to reach a just conclusion in 
regard to the author's method, as well as for the intrinsic 
interest of the narratives themselves. 

During Audubon's early life in Kentucky, as we 
have seen, he frequently visited the East, whether in the 
interest of birds or business, traveling by way of the 
river and the forest roads. Incidents of these journeys 
frequently occur in the "Episodes," but since dates com- 
monly are omitted and the order of events is liable to be 
blended or confused, they cannot be trusted always for 
historical accuracy. Thus, "The Wild Horse" episode 2 
professes to be an account of a single journey from 
Henderson, in Kentucky, to Philadelphia and back 
again, whereas some of the events recorded occurred in 
reality at least two years apart, such as the meeting with 
Nolte at the Falls of the Juniata River in December, 
1811, and the naturalist's return from Pennsylvania 
with the proceeds of "Mill Grove," which could not have 
been earlier than 1813, the date of its sale to Mr. Samuel 
Wetherill, Junior. 3 

Audubon visited Philadelphia in November, 1811, 

2 Ornithological Biography, vol. iii, p. 270. 

3 While the object of this visit is not mentioned in the "Episode," it 
is stated in the second biographical sketch; the ambiguities connected 
with the sale of this farm, in which others besides Audubon were then 
interested, are discussed in Chapter XI. 


and returned to Kentucky in December of that year, 
but whether it was upon this or some other journey 
that he rode a wild horse through seven states in going 
from his home at Henderson to the Quaker city, or 
whether such a journey ever occurred, is immaterial 
to the interest of the narrative. In this instance, how- 
ever, we have the advantage of comparing the notes of 
a fellow traveler, Vincent Nolte, then a merchant at 
New Orleans. 4 First to follow Audubon's account, as 
given in his "Episode," we are told that he rode a wild 
mustang, named "Barro," that had never known a shoe, 
having been recently captured near the headwaters of 
the Arkansas. In going east he diverged from the 
beaten track to extend his knowledge of the country and 
of its bird life. From Henderson he passed through 
the heart of Tennessee to Knoxville, thence to Abing- 
ton, the Natural Bridge, and Winchester in Virginia, 
crossed the corner of West Virginia to Harper's Ferry, 
then to Frederick, Maryland, and on through Lancas- 
ter to Philadelphia; there, he said, he remained four 
days, and returned by way of Pittsburgh, Wheeling, 
Zanesville, Chillicothe, Lexington and Louisville, to 
Henderson. He estimated the whole distance traversed 
at "nearly two thousand miles," and at a rate of "not 
less than forty miles a day." Much is said in praise of 
his favorite bay horse, and its food and daily treatment 
are duly recorded. This horse was very docile, and 
would wade swamps, swim rivers, and clear a rail fence 
like an elk; corn blades as well as corn and oats entered 
into his daily ration, to which a pumpkin and fresh eggs, 
when procurable, were occasionally added. 

It was upon his return journey that the naturalist 
met with Vincent Nolte, who twelve years later did his 

4 Vincent Nolte, Fifty Years in Both Hemispheres (Bibl. No. 176). 


chance acquaintance a good turn, when the latter was 
about to sail for England in 1826. 5 Nolte, said 

was mounted on a superb horse, for which he had paid three 
hundred dollars, and a servant on horseback led another as a 
change. I was then an utter stranger to him, and when I 
approached and praised his horse, he not very courteously ob- 
served that he wished I had as good a one. Finding that he was 
going to Bedford to spend the night, I asked him what hour he 
would get there: "Just soon enough to have some trouts ready 
for our supper, provided you will join when you get there." 
I almost imagined that Barro understood our conversation; 
he pricked up his ears, and lengthened his pace, on which Mr. 
Nolte caracolled his horse, and then put him to quick trot, but 
all in vain ; for I reached the hotel nearly a quarter of an hour 
before him, ordered the trouts, saw to the putting away of my 
good horse, and stood ready at the door to welcome my com- 
panion. From that day to this Vincent Nolte has been a friend 
to me. 

Audubon added that they rode together as far as 
Shippingport, now a part of Louisville, where his 
brother-in-law, Nicholas Berthoud, was then living. 

We shall now follow the equally circumstantial but 
widely divergent account of this meeting and the sub- 
sequent journey as given by the other traveler. Nolte 
had sailed from Liverpool in September, 1811, and 
landed in New York after a perilous voyage of forty- 
eight days. He had no servant, but was accompanied 
by a young Englishman, named Edward Hollander, 
whom he had engaged in a business capacity while in 
London and with whom he was making his way to New 
Orleans. Hollander had been sent in advance to Pitts- 

5 See Chapter XXI, p. 352. 


burgh to purchase two flatboats, for in addition to their 
horses they had planned to carry 400 barrels of flour, 
from the sale of which in the South they expected to 
defray the expenses of their journey. Having pur- 
chased a fine horse in Philadelphia, Nolte left that city 
in December, and with saddle-bags strapped to his 
horse's back, rode on "entirely alone." He crossed the 
highest point of the Alleghany ridge at ten o'clock of a 
winter's morning and later in the same day reached a 
small inn "close by the Falls of the Juniata River." 
"The landlady," to quote his narrative, "showed me into 
a room, and said, I perhaps would not mind taking my 
meal with a strange gentleman, who was already 
there." This stranger, who immediately struck him as 
"an odd fish," "was sitting at a table, before the fire, 
with a Madras handkerchief wound around his head, 
exactly in the style of the French mariners, or laborers, 
in a seaport town." In the course of the conversation 
which then ensued he declared that he was an English- 
man, but Nolte was the last person to be deceived on a 
question of nationality and remarked at once that his 
speech betrayed him. "He showed himself," to quote 
our senior traveler again, "to be an original throughout, 
but at last admitted that he was a Frenchman by birth, 
and a native of La Rochelle. However, he had come 
in his early youth to Louisiana, had grown up in the sea- 
service, and had gradually become a thorough Ameri- 
can." When asked how this account squared with his 
earlier statement, said Nolte, "he found it convenient 
to reply in the French language: 'when all is said and 
done, I am somewhat cosmopolitan; I belong to every 
country.' This man," to conclude, "who afterwards 
won for himself so great a name in natural history, par- 
ticularly in ornithology, was Audubon, who, however, 


was by no means thinking, at that time, of occupying 
himself with natural history." 

In the interview as thus far recorded, Audubon was 
clearly chaffing his new acquaintance, for not one of 
the statements attributed to him was true, if we accept 
the fact of his French extraction. Nolte, to be sure, 
writes as a somewhat vain and garrulous man, and after 
a lapse of forty-three years, but he professes to speak 
the truth and there is no reason to suppose that his nar- 
rative is pure invention. Nolte further informs us that 
Audubon's father-in-law, Mr. Bakewell, "formerly of 
Philadelphia," was "then residing and owning mills at 
Shippingport," which was not the case. To continue, 
finding that Audubon, who was bound for Kentucky, 
was a companionable man and devoted to art, a field 
which he had cultivated himself, Nolte proposed that 
they should travel together, and offered the naturalist 
a berth on one of his flatboats. 

He thankfully accepted the invitation, and we left Pitts- 
burgh in very cold weather, with the Monongahela and Ohio 
rivers full of drifting ice, in the beginning of January, 1812. I 
learned nothing further of his traveling plans until we reached 
Limestone, a little place in the southwestern corner of the State 
of Ohio.' 6 There we had both our horses taken ashore, and I 
resolved to go with him overland, at first to visit the capital, 
Lexington, and from there to Louisville, where he expected to 
find his wife and parents-in-law. . •. . We had hardly finished 
our breakfast at Limestone, when Audubon, all at once, sprang 
to his feet, and exclaimed in French ; "Now I am going to lay 
the foundation of my establishment." So saying, he took a 
small packet of address cards from his pocket, and some nails 
from his vest, and began to nail up one of the cards to the 
door of the tavern, where we were taking our meal. 

8 Limestone or, as it was later called, Maysville, was on the left bank 
of the river, in Kentucky, and about a hundred miles east of Cincinnati. 


Later they rode on together as far as Lexington, where 
they appear to have parted company. 

The discrepancies between these accounts could 
hardly be greater, and they serve to illustrate the lib- 
erties which Audubon sometimes took with facts in com- 
posing his "Episodes." The travelers met, not on horse- 
back, but at the supper table of a country inn; Nolte 
was then alone and had but one horse, while the greater 
part of the return journey was made by flatboat with 
Audubon as his guest ; corn blades, pumpkins and trout 
suggest any other season than midwinter, with heavy 
snows on the mountains and rivers choked with ice. 
Audubon in this instance, as already explained, com- 
bined the incidents of two different journeys and col- 
ored the narrative to suit his fancy. There was no ap- 
parent motive to mislead the reader, and one of his 
readers he must have known would probably be Vincent 
Nolte, though he was not a subscriber to The Birds of 
America', Nolte did read the story, and was pleased with 
the "flattering acknowledgment of the little service" 
that he was able to render Audubon at that time as well 
as later in his career. 

Both travelers felt the great earthquakes while mak- 
ing this journey, but probably not until they had parted 
company at Lexington. Audubon has given a vivid 
account of this experience in a characteristic sketch, but 
as usual there are no dates. 7 He was overtaken, as he 
said, while "traveling through the Barrens of Kentucky 
... in the month of November," when he thought his 
terrified "horse was about to die, and would have sprung 
from his back had a minute more elapsed, but at that 
instant all the shrubs and trees began to move from 
their very roots; the ground rose and fell in successive 

' "The Earthquake," Ornithological Biography, vol. i, p. 239. 


furrows, like the ruffled waters of a lake." For 
"November" he should have written "January" of the 
year 1812. 8 

This series of memorable earthquakes was followed 
in 1813 by a hurricane, more terrific than destructive, 
which swept the lower part of Henderson County, Ken- 
tucky, and cut a wide swath through the virgin forests, 
without causing any loss of life. Audubon's account 
of this event 9 is that of a close observer who escaped 
destruction by a hair's breadth and who related only 
what he himself had experienced. Critics inclined to be 
supercilious have complained that he exaggerated the 
importance of a merely local event and stretched the 
course of the storm some 800 miles until it had covered 
several states. "Sir," said Waterton, in pointing a dart 
through Audubon to another target, "this is really too 
much even for us Englishmen to swallow, whose gullets 
are known to be the largest, the widest, and the most 
elastic, of any in the world." What Audubon said was: 
"I have crossed the path of this storm, at a distance of 
a hundred miles from the spot where I witnessed its 
fury, and, again four hundred miles farther off, in the 
State of Ohio. Lastly, I observed traces of its ravages 
on the summits of the mountains connected with the 

8 These historic earthquakes, which were most destructive of life and 
property in the lower Mississippi Valley, began on December 16, 1811, 
and therefore before Audubon and Nolte had reached the western country. 
They were noted for their remarkable frequency and persistence, 221 
shocks having been recorded in a single week at Henderson, Audubon's 
home at that time; though their force was mostly spent after the first 
three months, they did not wholly die away in the Ohio Valley until 
December 12, 1813, when the last feeble vibration was recorded by Dr. 
Daniel Drake at Cincinnati; the worst shocks at this point were experi- 
enced on December 16, 1811, on January 23 and February 7, 1812. See 
Daniel Drake, Natural and Statistical View of Cincinnati, and the Miami 
Valley; with an appendix, containing observations on the late Earth- 
quakes, (Cincinnati, 1815); and Edmund L. Starling, History of Hender- 
son County, Kentucky (Bibl. No. 186). 

9 "The Hurricane," Ornithological Biography, vol. i, p. 262. 


Great Pine Forest of Pennsylvania, three hundred 
miles beyond the place last mentioned. In all these 
different parts, it appeared to me not to have exceeded 
a quarter of a mile in breadth." Audubon was doubt- 
less mistaken in his hasty inference that marks of forest 
devastation observed at such widely separated points 
were due to the same storm, but this would only illus- 
trate a lack of caution which he sometimes displayed. 

A contemporary writer 10 declared that Audubon's 
account of "Mason," the outlaw, whose name we are 
told should be spelled "Meason," was altogether fabu- 
lous; that he was not killed by a regulator party, nor 
was his head stuck upon a tree in the way described. 11 
The same critic further discredited the naturalist's ac- 
count of Daniel Boone, whom he had characterized as 
follows: 12 "The stature and general appearance of this 
wanderer of the western forests approached the gigan- 
tic. His chest was broad and prominent; his muscular 
powers displayed themselves in every limb; his coun- 
tenance gave indication of his great courage, enter- 
prise, and perseverance." "Boone," said this writer, 
"was under six feet high, probably not more than five 
feet, ten inches, and of that round, compact build, which 
makes little show. Though very active, he had the ap- 
pearance of being rather slender and did not seem as 
large as he really was." In the case of the outlaw, 
Audubon no doubt retold a story that had passed from 
mouth to mouth, but he later learned to be wary of 
second-hand information, which in matters of natural 
history sometimes led him into more serious difficulties. 
In his description of Boone there was no more apparent 

10 James Hall (Bibl. No. 123), Western Monthly Magazine, vol. ii 

""The Regulators," Ornithological Biography, vol. i, p. 105. 
12 "Colonel Boone," ibid., vol. i, p. 503. 


motive to deceive than in the case of his own father, to 
whom his imagination had added nearly half a foot in 
stature. 13 

When Audubon was returning from Ste. Gene- 
vieve in the spring of 1812, an incident occurred in 
which, for the first time in the course of his wanderings 
for upwards of twenty-five years, he felt his life to be 
in danger from his fellow man. 14 Overtaken by night 
on the prairie, he approached the hearth fire of a small 
log cabin, which at first was mistaken for the campfire 
of some wandering Indians. On craving shelter, he 
was admitted by a tall, surly woman in coarse attire, 
who displayed both an evil eye and a repellent counte- 
nance; but she offered him a supper of venison and 
jerked buffalo meat and bade him to make his bed upon 
the floor. When she espied his gold watch and chain, 
her demeanor suddenly changed and she asked to take 
them in her hand ; she put the chain around her brawny 
neck and by her manner betrayed every token of cov- 
etous desire. Meanwhile, a young Indian stoic, who 
was nursing a recent arrow wound, had been sitting in 
silence by the fire; though he spoke not a word, he cast 
an expressive glance in Audubon's direction whenever 
the woman's back was turned, and having drawn his 
knife from its scabbard, expressed in pantomime what 
the confiding stranger might eventually expect. 

Audubon's suspicions were at last thoroughly 
aroused. He asked for his watch, and under pretense 
of forecasting the weather, took up his gun and saun- 
tered out of the cabin ; in the darkness outside he slipped 
a ball in each of the barrels of his gun, scraped the ed^es 
of his flints, renewed the primings, and returned with a 

13 See Chapter V, p. 88. 

""The Prairie," Ornithological Bior/raph]!. vol. i, p. 81. 


favorable report of his observations. Then laying some 
deer skins on the floor in a corner and calling his faith- 
ful dog to his side, he lay down and to all appearances 
was soon asleep. Presently sounds of approaching 
voices were heard, and at length two sturdy youths, 
who were evidently the woman's sons, appeared bear- 
ing a dead stag, which they had slung to a pole; they 
asked at once about the stranger, and called loudly for 
whisky. Audubon tapped his dog, who showed by eye 
and tail that he was already alert. Observing that the 
whisky bottle was paying frequent visits to the mouths 
of the trio, he hoped that they would soon be reduced 
to a state of helplessness, but the woman was seen to 
take in her hands a large carving knife and go delib- 
erately outside to whet its edge on a grindstone; then, 
calling to her drunken sons, she asked them to settle 
the stranger and bade them do their bloody work with- 
out delay. Audubon cocked both barrels of his gun, 
touched his dog again, and was resolved to shoot at the 
first suspicious move. At this dramatic moment the 
door suddenly opened and two burly travelers with 
rifles on their shoulders entered the cabin. Audubon 
sprang to his feet, and welcoming the strangers with 
open arms, lost no time in making known to them his 
desperate position. No parley was necessary, for, said 
he, they were regulators, who then and there took the 
law into their own hands. The woman and her sons 
were promptly secured, bound, and left until morning to 
sober off; they were then led into the woods and shot. 
"We marched them into the woods off the road," said 
Audubon, "and having used them as Regulators were 
wont to use such delinquents, we set fire to the cabin, 
gave all the skins and implements to the young Indian, 
and proceeded, well pleased, towards the settlements." 


Would you believe, he added, that not many miles from 
where this happened, "and where fifteen years ago, no 
habitation belonging to civilized man was expected, and 
very few ever seen, large roads are now laid out, culti- 
vation has converted the woods into fertile fields; tav- 
erns have been erected, and much of what we Americans 
call comfort is to be met with? So fast does improve- 
ment proceed in our abundant and free country." 

I have given a paraphrase of this "Episode" as a 
further illustration of Audubon's tales of adventure. 
There is doubtless a certain amount of invention, and 
it reads like the setting of a dime novel incident, but we 
see no reason to doubt the substantial truth of either 
the local coloring or the fact. In answer to the question 
of a recent commentator, 15 "Did remote prairie cabins 
have grindstones and carving knives?" we would reply 
that the knife and the ax have followed man to the 
frontier posts of civilization everywhere, and without 
the grindstone the ax is useless. As a concrete instance 
in point, compare this minute entered in the Proprie- 
tors' Book of Records of Perrytown, afterwards Sut- 
ton, New Hampshire, 16 for the third day of September, 
1770: "Voted a grindstone of about 8 shillings to be 
sent up to Perrystown, for the use of the settlers there"; 
the first settler had entered that wilderness but three 
years before, and at the time this vote was taken the 
number was five. 

15 John Burroughs, John James Audubon (Bibl. No. 87), p. 37. 
,n See History of Sutton, New Hampshire, compiled by Augustus 
Harvey Worthen, pt. 1 (Concord, 1890). 



The "Eccentric Naturalist" at Henderson — Bats and new species — The 
demolished violin — "M. de T.": Constantine Samuel Rafinesque 
(Schmaltz) — His precocity, linguistic acquirements and peripatetic 
habits— First visit to America and botanical studies — Residence in 
Sicily, and fortune made in the drug trade — Association with Swain- 
son — Marriage and embitterment — His second journey to America ends 
in shipwreck— Befriended— Descends the Ohio in a flatboat— Visit with 
Audubon, who gives him many strange "new species" — Cost to 
zoology— His unique work on Ohio fishes— Professorship in Transylvania 
University— Quarrel with its president and trustees— Return to Phila- 
delphia — His ardent love of nature; his writings and fatal versatility — 
His singular will— His sad end and the ruthless disposition of his 

Audubon's humorous sketch of "The Eccentric 
Naturalist" has often been quoted, and it presents a 
picture which is amusing, however short of the truth 
it may fall or however it may fail in doing justice to 
its subject. Though his real hero is not named, no 
doubt as to his identity has ever been entertained. This 
episode occurred at Henderson in the late summer of 
1818, and was published thirteen years after in the 
Biography of birds. 1 Since the story was not fully told 
then and the after-effects were productive of much harsh 
criticism, it cannot be overlooked if we would do justice 
to both the writer and his subject. 

When walking one day by the river, to follow Audu- 
bon's story, he saw a man landing from a boat with 
what appeared like a bundle of dried clover on his back; 

1 "The Eccentric Naturalist," Ornithological Biography (Bibl. No. 2), 
vol. i, p. 455. 



he concluded from his appearance that the stranger 
must be "an original," a term which had been applied 
also to himself. A meeting followed, and the stranger, 
who had inquired for Mr. Audubon's house, explained 
that he was a naturalist, and had come to see Audubon's 
drawings of birds and plants; he bore also a letter from 
a friend, introducing "an odd fish" which might "prove 
to be undescribed." The visitor was made welcome in 
Audubon's Henderson home, where, to quote the 

at table his agreeable conversation made us all forget his singu- 
lar appearance. ... A long loose coat of yellow nankeen, 
much the worse of the many rubs it had got in its time, and 
stained all over with the juice of plants, hung loosely about 
him like a sac. A waistcoat of the same, with enormous pockets, 
and buttoned up to the chin, reached below over a pair of tight 
pantaloons, the lower parts of which were buttoned down to 
the ankles. His beard was as long as I have known mine to be 
during some of my peregrinations, and his lank black hair hung 
loosely over his shoulders. His forehead was so broad and 
prominent that any tyro in phrenology would instantly have 
pronounced it to be the residence of a mind of strong powers. 
His words impressed an assurance of rigid truth, and as he 
directed the conversation to the study of the natural sciences, 
I listened to him with as much delight as Telemachus could have 
listened to Mentor. 

All had retired for the night when of a sudden a 
great uproar was heard in the visitor's room. To his great 
astonishment, Audubon found his guest running about 
the apartment naked, holding the "handle" of his host's 
favorite violin, the body of which had been battered 
to pieces against the walls in the attempt to secure a 
number of fluttering bats which had entered by an open 
window. "I stood amazed," said Audubon, "but he 


continued jumping and running round and round, until 
he was fairly exhausted, when he begged me to procure 
one of the animals for him, as he felt convinced they 
belonged to 'a new species.' Although I was convinced 
to the contrary, I took up the bow of my demolished 
Cremona, and administering a sharp tap to each of the 
bats as it came up, soon had specimens enough." Other 
incidents of this visit, which Audubon said lasted three 
weeks, are fully recorded. The eccentric naturalist 
collected an abundance of plants, shells, bats and fishes. 
One evening he failed to appear, and after a prolonged 
search was nowhere to be found; nor were the Audu- 
bons wholly assured of his safety until some weeks later 
they received a letter with due acknowledgments of their 

The "M. de T." of this episode was Constantine 
Samuel Rafinesque, in many respects the most singu- 
lar figure that has ever appeared in the annals of Ameri- 
can science. Although young in years, for Rafinesque 
was then but thirty-five, he was already old in experi- 
ence and that of the bitterest sort ; and although already 
known to many in both hemispheres, he had few friends. 
It is certain that neither Audubon nor anyone else in 
that part of Kentucky had ever heard of him before. 

Born in Constantinople, of a father who was a 
French merchant from Marseilles and of a mother with 
a German name who by nativity was Greek, Rafinesque 
had known life in many lands, and was destined, as he 
said, to be a traveler from the cradle to the tomb. 2 His 

2 For the characterization of Rafinesque given in the present chapter I 
am chiefly indebted, aside from his own writings, to his two most sym- 
pathetic biographers, Richard Ellsworth Call and T. J. Fitzpatrick, as well 
as to David Starr Jordan; see Bibliography, Nos. 198, 228, and 183. Fitz- 
patrick gives photographic reproductions from Rafinesque's exceedingly 
diversiform and scattered works; his bibliographic titles extend to 939, 
and "Rafinesquiana" to 134. 


first voyage, made with his parents on their return to 
France, by way of Scutari in Asia, Smyrna, and Malta, 
led to his first discovery, when he was a year old, for he 
was able to announce that "infants are not subject to 
sea-sickness." At eleven he read Latin and collected 
plants; at thirteen he wrote his first scientific paper, 
"Notes on the Apennines," which he had seen when 
traveling from Leghorn to Genoa. His father, who 
set out for China in 1791, fell in with pirates, but man- 
aged to reach America; he died of the yellow fever in 
Philadelphia in 1793. To escape the Reign of Terror in 
France, Rafinesque's mother fled with her children to 
Italy, where four years were passed at Leghorn. There 
Constantine studied with private tutors, but his educa- 
tion was never formal and he was allowed to follow 
his omnivorous tastes, reading, as he said, ten times 
more than was taught in the schools. His writings are 
mainly in French, Italian, and English, and his facility 
with languages was no doubt remarkable, even if we 
discount his egotized estimate of his own attainments: 
"I have undertaken to read the Latin and Greek, as 
well as the Hebrew, Sanskrit, Chinese, and fifty other 
languages, as I felt the need or inclination to study 

In 1802 Rafinesque was sent with his brother to 
America and became a shipper's clerk at Philadelphia, 
where he spent all of his spare time in the study of 
nature, plants being his first and greatest love. Here 
he was befriended by Dr. Benjamin Rush, and during 
this period he made the acquaintance of many pioneer 
naturalists in the United States. In 180.5 the offer of 
a lucrative situation in Sicily lured him back to the Old 
World and to a country already known to him. There 
he soon discovered the medicinal squill, of ancient re- 


pute and thought to be an antidote, which in the form 
of syrup was long the bane of childhood ; this and other 
medicinal drugs he exported to the European and 
American markets in such quantities that before the 
secret of his trade became known to the jealous Sicil- 
ians, he had reaped from it, in conjunction with his 
other enterprises, a small fortune. During the ten years 
that were spent in Sicily we find him the manager of a 
successful whisky distillery, the chancellor or secretary 
of the American Consulate at Palermo, editor, writer, 
and correspondent of learned men in Europe, as well as 
traveler and explorer in every part of the island, which 
he proposed to monograph with all of its contents. At 
Palermo Rafinesque met the English naturalist, 
William Swainson, his lifelong correspondent; together 
they tramped over the island and together they worked 
for a number of years on the fishes of the western coast. 3 
Swainson, who became the friend of Audubon, was one 
of the few who later defended Rafinesque. 

Rafinesque espoused a Sicilian woman of the Cath- 
olic faith, and had by her two children, of whom a 
daughter lived to maturity; this experience seems to 
have embittered him against the sex, for no other 
woman excepting his mother, to whom his Life of 
Travels was dedicated, was ever mentioned in his writ- 
ings, and this one was disinherited in his extraordinary 
will. Through fear of being drafted into the French 
wars, he assumed for a time his mother's family name of 
Schmaltz, and finally left Sicily in disgust ; taking with 
him his fortune and "fifty boxes of personal goods," 

3 "At Palermo," said Swainson, "I had the pleasure of meeting . . . 
Rafinesque Schmaltz, whose first name is familiar to most zoologists. In 
the society of such congenial minds, I passed many happy hours, and 
made many delightful excursions ... by the inducement of the latter, I 
was led to investigate the ichthyology of the western coast." (See 
Bibliography, No. 170.) 


he set out again for America in 1815. Sicily, he de- 
clared in epigram, offered "a fruitful soil, a delightful 
climate, excellent productions, perfidious men, deceitful 

This second voyage to the New World began late 
in July but did not end until 100 days later, when, on 
the night of November 2, his ship ran on the Race Rocks 
near New London, at the western end of Long Island 
Sound, and eventually went down within sight of land 
with all his possessions. "I had lost everything," he 
said, "my fortune, my share of the cargo, my collec- 
tions and labors for twenty years past, my books, my 
manuscripts, my drawings, even my clothes ... all 
that I possessed, except some scattered funds, and the 
insurance ordered in England for one third of the value 
of my goods." "I have found men," he continued, "vile 
enough to laugh without shame at my misfortune, in- 
stead of condoling with me! But I have met also with 
friends who deplored my loss, and helped me in need." 
One of these friends was Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell of 
New York, who had given a helping hand to Audubon, 4 
and it was probably through him that Rafinesque ob- 
tained a position as private tutor in a family living on 
the Hudson. Traveling up and down the country, col- 
lecting objects in natural history, writing, with frus- 
trated attempts at business, occupied a number of the 
following years; meanwhile he had aided in founding 
the Lyceum of New York and had become a member of 
the Literary and Philosophical Society. At Philadel- 
phia he found another friend in Mr. John O. Clifford, 
of Lexington, Kentucky, who encouraged him to visit 
the West, and in the spring of 1818 he descended the 
Ohio in an "ark" in company with several others who 

4 See Vol. I, pp. 171 and 33(5. 


had joined him in the enterprise. At Shippingport he 
was welcomed by the Tarascon brothers, flour mer- 
chants, formerly of Marseilles and Philadelphia, and it 
was through them, possibly, that he first heard of Audu- 
bon's drawings of birds. 

Such was the "odd fish" who a little later greeted 
Audubon on the river bank at Henderson. Had Audu- 
bon known the true history of his visitor either then or 
at a later time, he would not, we believe, have held him 
up to ridicule in the "Episode" quoted above, and could 
he have foreseen the unpleasant consequences that 
ensued, his conduct would assuredly have been different. 
A part of the episode, which Audubon does not relate, 
was supplied by another naturalist at a much later day. 5 
Audubon, it seems, was at that time a good deal of a 
wag, and whether to vent his dislike of species-mongers, 
to avenge the loss of his violin, or to gratify some spirit 
of mischief, he played upon the credulity of his guest, 
in a way that could be deemed hardly creditable, in 
giving him detailed descriptions and even supplying 
him with drawings of sundry impossible fishes and mol- 
lusks. Rafinesque took the bait eagerly, duly noted 
down everything on the spot, and, what was more un- 

B See David Starr Jordan (Bibl. No. 183), Popular Science Monthly, 
vol. xxix (1886). "The true story of this practical joke was told me 
by the venerable Dr. Kirtland, who in turn received it from Dr. Bach- 
man;" the latter, I might add, was the friend and correspondent of the 
"Sage of Rockport" after a visit at his home near Cleveland in the 
summer of 1852. In the private notebooks of Rafinesque copies of Audu- 
bon's drawings are still to be seen, and "a glance at these," said Dr. Jordan, 
"is sufficient to show the extent to which science through him has been 

Audubon was also responsible for a number of extraordinary "new 
species" of bird-;, the most notorious of which was the Scarlet-headed Swal- 
low, of which Rafinesque published the following account in 1820: "Hirundo 
phenicephala. Head scarlet, back gray, belly white, bill and feet black. 
A fine and rare swallow seen only once by Mr. Audubon near Henderson, 
Kentucky . . ." See Samuel N. Rhoads, "Constantine S. Rafinesque as an 
Ornithologist," Cassinia, No. XV (Philadelphia, 1911). 


fortunate for American zoology, a year later began to 
publish the results. The fictitious species of fish, to the 
number of ten, "communicated by Mr. Audubon," first 
appeared as a series of articles in a short-lived and long 
forgotten western magazine, but in 1820 they were 
gathered into a little volume T now considered so quaint 
and rare that it has been reproduced in its entirety. In 
this pioneer work on the ichthyology of the Ohio River 
and the great Middle West, 111 kinds of American 
fresh- water fishes are briefly described. Those ten "new 
species," representing apparently a number of new 
genera, "so like and yet so unlike to anything yet 
known," long remained a stumbling block to American 
zoologists; naturally they tended to discredit the work 
of Rafinesque. 

6 The Western Review and Miscellaneous Magazine, Lexington, 1819-20. 

7 Ichthyologia Ohiensis, or Natural History of the Fishes inhabiting 
the River Ohio and its tributary Streams, preceded by a physical descrip- 
tion of the Ohio and its branches, By C. S. Rafinesque, Professor of 
Botany and Natural History in Transylvania University, Author of the 
Analysis of Nature, &c. &e. Member of the Literary and Philosophical 
Society of New- York, the Historical Society of New-York, the Lyceum of 
Natural History of New-York, the Academy of Natural Sciences of 
Philadelphia, the American Antiquarian Society, the Royal Institute of 
Natural Sciences of Naples, the Italian Society of Arts and Sciences, the 
Medical Societies of Lexington and Cincinnati, &c. &c. 

"The art of seeing well, or of noticing and distinguishing with accuracy 
the objects which we perceive, is a high faculty of the mind, unfolded in 
few individuals, and despised by those who can neither acquire it, nor 
appreciate its results." 

Lexington, Kentucky: printed for the author by W. G. Hunt. (Price 
one dollar.) (Pp. 1-90. Lexington, 1820.) 

Fitzpatrick (see Bibliography, No. 228) gives a list of 14 copies of 
this work, the whereabouts of which are known; we can add another 
from the library of Dr. Jared P. Kirtland, now in the collections of 
Western Reserve University; it is bound up with Dr. Kirtland's notebook 
on birds and fishes, and labeled "Scraps of Natural History. My Note 
Book;" a written notice on the inside of the cover, imploring the finder 
to return the volume to its owner if lost, is signed by Dr. Kirtland and 
dated "Cleveland, O., Oct. lGth, 1839." Probably fewer than 20 original 
copies of the work now exist. It was reproduced in a limited edition, with a 
sketch of Rafinesque's life and works by Richard Ellsworth Call, published 
by the Burrows Brothers' Company of Cleveland in 1899. 








NO. 109." 

Published by courtesy of Mr. Joseph Y. Jeanes. 


As a specimen of these spurious fish stories, which 
were previously published in both America and Europe, 
we reproduce a part of Rafinesque's description of the 
"91st. Species. Devil-Jack Diamond-fish. Litholepis 
adamantinus" : 

This may be reckoned the wonder of the Ohio. It is only 
found as far uj) as the falls, and probably lives also in the 
Mississippi. I have seen it, but only at a distance, and have 
been shown some of its singular scales. Wonderful stories are 
related concerning this fish, but I have principally relied upon 
the description and figure given me by Mr. Audubon. Its 
length is from 4 to 10 feet. One was caught which weighed 
four hundred pounds. It lies sometimes asleep or motionless 
on the surface of the water, and may be mistaken for a log 
or a snag. It is impossible to take it in any other way than 
with the seine or a very strong hook, the prongs of the gig 
cannot pierce the scales which are as hard as flint, and even 
proof against lead balls ! Its flesh is not good to eat. It is a 
voracious fish: Its vulgar names are Diamond fish, (owing to its 
scales being cut like diamonds) Devil fish, Jack fish, Gar jack, 
&c. . . . The whole body covered with large stone scales laying 
in oblique rows, they are conical, pentagonal, and pentsedral 
with equal sides, from half an inch to one inch in diameter, 
brown at first, but becoming of the colour of turtle shell when 
dry: they strike fire with steel! and are ball proof! 

While we cannot defend Audubon in his treatment 
of Rafinesque, it would be hardly fair to judge such 
incidents wholly in the light of after events, for, as our 
narrative will show, it is unlikely that he ever saw 
Rafinesque or heard of him again until long years after 
this incident, certainly not until after his "Episode" 
was published in 1831. 8 Rafinesque evidently enjoyed 

K Probably not before October of that .year, when Audubon first 
met John Bachman, at Charleston, South Carolina. 


this sketch of himself, for he gave unstinted praise to the 
work in which it was published. As late as 1832, when 
the appearance of The Birds of America seems to have 
stimulated him to even more grandiose conceptions of 
his own merits than was usual, he declared that his dis- 
coveries were counted by the thousand, and that he had 
traveled twenty thousand miles, always collecting and 
drawing. In view of the fact that drawing was a talent 
which nature had unequivocally denied him, it is inter- 
esting to read this boast that an unfriendly critic drew 
forth: "My illustrations of 30 years' travels, with 2,000 
figures will soon begin to be published, and be superior 
to those of my friend Audubon, in extent and variety, 
if not equal in beauty. I shall study and write as long 
as I live, in spite of all such mean attempts against my 
reputation and exertions, trusting in the justice of lib- 
eral men." 9 

After leaving Audubon at Henderson in the sum- 
mer of 1818, Rafinesque passed down the Ohio into the 
Mississippi, pausing only to pay his respects at the 
famous communistic settlement of New Harmony, by 
the mouth of the Wabash in Indiana, later the abode 
of Thomas Say, David Dale Owen, and Charles Le 
Sueur, all of whom have left bright and honored names 
in the annals of American science. He eventually re- 
turned to Philadelphia by way of Lexington, Kentucky, 
where he was induced to settle and teach natural his- 
tory and the modern languages in the Transylvania 
University, at that time the most important seat of 
learning in the West. After closing up his business 

9 Reply to a criticism of G. W. Featherstonhaugh (The Monthly Ameri- 
can Journal of Geological Science), in Rafinesque's Atlantic Journal and 
Friend of Knowledge, No. 3, p. 113 (Philadelphia, 1832). Rafinesque occa- 
sionally spoke of meeting "my friend Audubon," who, he declared, had 
invited him to join his expedition to Florida in 1831-32. 


affairs in Philadelphia, Rafinesque entered upon his 
new labors at Lexington in the autumn of 1819. He 
was probably the first teacher of these subjects west 
of the Alleghanies, and certainly the first in that section 
of the country to use the present object method in the 
elucidation of natural history. The lot of a pioneer in 
education has never been a sinecure, and the post which 
Rafinesque then filled was not a 'chair" but a hard 
"settee." In those days the classics were in the saddle 
and "rode mankind," while the natural sciences, when 
tolerated at all, were given short shrift; yet this eccen- 
tric foreigner held his position for seven years and ac- 
complished an extraordinary amount of work. As 
usual he spread his energies over the whole field of 
knowledge, lecturing, writing and publishing on almost 
every subject, but concentrating upon none. Mean- 
while, he roamed far and wide and made extensive col- 

While at the Transylvania University Rafinesque 
seems to have applied for the master of arts' degree, but 
was at first refused, as he said, "because I had not stud- 
ied Greek in a college, although I knew more languages 
than all of the American colleges united, but it was 
granted at last; but the Doctor of medicine was not 
granted, because I would not superintend anatomical 

One of his many projects, as meritorious as it was im- 
practical, at that time, was a Botanic Garden with a 
Library and Museum for Lexington, which was then 
but a small village; though land was actually secured 
and a start in tree planting begun, the project of course 
came to nothing and had to be abandoned. Rafinesque 
also invented, as he believed, the present coupon system 
of issuing bonds, the "Divitial Invention," as he called 


it; in 1825 he set out for Washington in order to secure 
his patent rights, but his journey and idea never brought 
him any returns. On the contrary, the incident marked 
the culmination of his troubles with the president of the 
University and its governing board, whom he seems to 
have constantly nettled by his independent ways and 
roaming habits. Upon returning from Washington he 
found that Dr. Holley, who, he said, "hated and de- 
spised the natural sciences" and wished to drive him out 
altogether, had broken into his rooms during his ab- 
sence, and had "given one to the students, and thrown 
all my effects, books and collections in a heap in the 
other," besides depriving him of certain other privi- 
leges. "I took lodgings," he continued, "in town and 
carried there all my effects ; thus leaving the college with 
curses on it and Holley ; who were both reached by them 
soon after, since he died next year at sea of the yellow 
fever, caught at New Orleans ; having been driven from 
Lexington by public opinion ; and the College has been 
burnt in 1828 with all its contents." 

After this unpleasant experience Rafinesque re- 
turned to Philadelphia, where he spent the last and 
saddest part of his checkered career. His insistent 
ideas, which were undoubtedly the index of an unbal- 
anced mind, increased, especially his mania for describ- 
ing "new species" of animals and plants; this mania 
perverted everything that he wrote, especially toward 
the end of his life, and made him a thorn in the side of 
every naturalist who tried to verify his work. A non- 
conformist and a respecter of no authority but his own 
is never popular, though a part of the antagonism which 
Rafinesque aroused was due to the conservatism of his 
age. He boldly advocated organic evolution when al- 
most the whole world believed that species were fixed 


and unchangeable things, and in many other respects 
was fifty years ahead of his time ; but nothing was ever 
carefully worked out in his fertile mind, with the conse- 
quence that the world paid no heed to his crude and 
undigested ideas. 

The great mass of Rafmesque's books and mono- 
graphs, his "tracts," broadsides, and ephemeral papers 
of all sorts, extending to nearly a thousand titles, must 
have gone into paper rags, when not used to kindle 
fires, for he was generous in their distribution, and they 
are now exceedingly rare. He touched nearly every- 
thing, it is true, but little that he touched, especially 
in this later period of his life, did he ever truly orna- 
ment. His best pioneer work, in the opinion of com- 
petent students, was that done upon the fishes of Sicily 
and the natural history of the Ohio Valley ; his Medical 
Flora, in two volumes (1828 and 1830) , is also admitted 
to have possessed real value; but his writings are now 
sought after as literary or scientific curiosities, and as 
such they are unique. 

No doubt Rafinesque was often treated unjustly, 
either through ignorance or intent, while many natural- 
ists were exasperated by the barbed arrows which he 
shot into the air or direct at the mark. Others through 
sheer inability to follow him gave up the attempt, one 
writer 10 saying that such an attitude was justified when 
it appeared that he had made six species out of one, 
not to speak of several different genera and two sub- 
families. If anyone still believes that Rafinesque has 
been misjudged, says Giinther, 11 let him read his letters 
to Swainson, from 1809 to 1840, fifty-three in number, 

10 Isaac Lea, in A Synopsis of the Family of Naiades, £>p. 8-9 (Phila- 
delphia, 1836). 

11 See Bibliography, No. 204. 


covering 178 closely written quarto or folio pages, now 
in possession of the Linnsean Society of London. 
"Rafinesque," continues this critic, "was a man deeply 
to be commiserated, not merely on account of the un- 
fortunate circumstances which left him in his youth to 
himself, without teacher or guide, but still more on the 
ground of that natural disposition by which his uni- 
versal failure in life was brought about. He was pos- 
sessed of a feverish restlessness which entirely disquali- 
fied him from serious study of any of the multitudinous 
subjects which attracted his mind in rapid succession." 

Rafinesque, bereft of friends and fortune, unknown 
even to his neighbors, by whom he seems to have been 
regarded as a harmless herb doctor, was left to struggle 
on alone, without recognition and without sympathy or 
support. Reduced finally to abject poverty, he con- 
cocted and sold medicines which were advertised much 
like quack remedies at the present day, especially his 
"Pulmel," which without a doubt he thought had cured 
him of the pulmonary consumption. To advertise this 
he wrote a little treatise, hoping to realize something 
from its sale and at the same time to avoid any undue 
appearance of empyricism. 

Toward the very end of his life, Rafinesque pro- 
jected a savings bank, and, strangely enough, this seems 
to have been a success, though just how is not clear, 
since it both borrowed and loaned money at six per 
cent. He had already attempted to secure rights on a 
"steam-plough," a "submarine boat," "incombustible 
houses," and similar novelties which abler inventors have 
later perfected. For a long time he led the life of a 
perfect recluse in a garret in a poor quarter of Phila- 
delphia, in the midst of his collections, his books and 
his manuscripts, never the world forgetting but ever by 


the world forgot. There, in the direst misery, he died 
in 1840, at the age of fifty-six, without a word of cheer 
or a tear of regret. His body was barely saved from 
the dissecting table and given decent burial through the 
loyalty and promptitude of one of his few remaining 
friends, Dr. William Mease, who with undertaker 
Bringhurst, broke into the room where his body lay and 
let it down through a window by ropes. 12 Even his will 
was ruthlessly violated, and all of his effects, in eight 
dray-loads, were hurried off to the public auction rooms 
and sold in bargain lots, his books and all else bringing 
but a mere pittance, not even enough to pay his land- 
lord and the administrator of his estate. 

Thus died the "eccentric naturalist" whom Audubon 
had portrayed, and for whom the world in general had 
shown scant sympathy. Rafinesque, nevertheless, pos- 
sessed a mind of extraordinary acumen and an energy 
and versatility little short of marvelous. He dipped 
into every field of knowledge, looking for precious 
metal, but much that he brought to the surface was 
dross. His restless versatility alone would probably 
have ruined him, for nothing short of an analysis of 
the globe with all of its contents would have satisfied 
his ambitious spirit. His was the ardor of the traveler 
and the explorer, with a passionate love for nature sel- 
dom equaled, but without the incentive and the patience 
of the investigator or a balance-wheel in the judgment. 
His ambition in early life was to become the greatest 
naturalist of his age ; had his early training and environ- 

12 The landlord, to whom Rafinesque had been in arrears for rent, had 
locked his body in the room and refused permission for its burial, think- 
ing to find a market for it in one of the medical schools of the city. 
Rafinesque was buried in a little churchyard, then outside of the limits 
of the city, known as Ronaldson's cemetery, now at Ninth and Catharine 
Streets. See Call and Fitzpatrick, Bibliography, Nos. 198 and 228. 


ment been suited to his needs, and had fortune favored 
him more consistently with her smiles, this ambition 
possibly might have been realized, but we suspect that 
in this case nature would have proved stronger than 
nurture, and that he would have been Rafinesque to 
the end. 




Pivotal period in Audubon's career — His spur and balance-wheel — Resort 
to portraiture — Taxidermist in the Western Museum — Settles in Cin- 
cinnati — History of his relations with Dr. Drake — Decides to make his 
avocation his business — Journey down the Ohio and Mississippi with 
Mason and Cummings — Experiences of travel without a cent of capital — 
Life in New Orleans— Vanderlyn's recommendations — Original draw- 
ings — Chance meeting with Mrs. Pirrie, and engagement as tutor at 
"Oakley" — Enchantments of West Feliciana — "My lovely Miss Pirrie" — 
The jealous doctor — Famous drawing of the rattlesnake — Leaves St. 
Francisville and is adrift again in New Orleans — Obtains pupils in 
drawing and is joined by his family — Impoverished, moves to Natchez, 
and Mrs. Audubon becomes a governess — Injuries to his drawings — 
The labors of years destroyed by rats — Teaching in Tennessee — Parting 
with Mason — First lessons in oils — Mrs. Audubon's school at "Beech- 
woods" — Painting tour fails — Stricken at Natchez — At the Percys' 
plantation — Walk to Louisville — Settles at Shippingport. 

Audubon's failure at Henderson was the crucial 
turning point in his career. For the five years that 
immediately followed he led a peripatetic existence in 
the southern and western states, seldom tarrying long 
at one point, often leaving his family for months at a 
time, living from hand to mouth, but ever bent on per- 
fecting those products of his hand and brain, his life 
studies of American birds and plants. 

At this crisis Audubon could have accomplished 
nothing but for the intelligent devotion of his capable 
wife. Generous, emotional, inclined to be self-indul- 
gent, Audubon needed both the example and the spur 
of a strong character such as his wife possessed, and at 
this time Lucy Audubon furnished both the motive 



power and the balance-wheel that were requisite for the 
development of her husband's genius. Without her 
zeal and self-sacrificing devotion the world would never 
have heard of Audubon. His budding talents event- 
ually would have been smothered in some backwoods 
town of the Middle West or South. For the space of 
nearly twelve years, Mrs. Audubon, now as the head 
of a small private school, now as a governess in some 
friendly family who appreciated her worth, practically 
assumed the responsibility for the support and educa- 
tion of their children in order that her husband's hands 
might be free, and with her hard-earned savings was 
able to aid him materially in the prosecution of his 
labors. When relatives or friends upbraided him for 
not entering upon some form of lucrative trade, she 
recognized his genius and always came to his support, 
being fully persuaded that he was destined to become 
one of the great workers of the world. Whatever oth- 
ers may have said or done at that time, both Audubon 
and his wife were confident of the ultimate success of 
his mission. In short, the work in which the naturalist 
was engaged became a family interest, in which every 
member was destined sooner or later to bear a part. 

Audubon recalled a somber incident of this time 
which he thought might furnish a lesson to mankind, 
and he shall relate it in his own words : 

After our dismal removal from Henderson to Louisville, 
one morning when all of us were sadly desponding, I took you 
both, Victor and John, from Shippingport to Louisville. I had 
purchased a loaf of bread and some apples ; before you reached 
Louisville you were hungry, and by the river side we sat down 
and ate our scanty meal. On that day the world was with me 
as a blank, and my heart was sorely heavy, for scarcely had I 
enough to keep my dear ones alive ; and yet through those dark 


days I was being led to the development of the talents I loved, 
and which have brought so much enjoyment to us all. . . . 

At Shippingport Audubon was welcomed by his 
brother-in-law, Nicholas A. Berthoud. Wasting no 
time in vain regrets, he began doing portraits in crayon, 
and with such success that he was able to rent a modest 
apartment and have his family about him again. From 
no charges for his tentative efforts the price was grad- 
ually raised until he received five dollars or more a 
head ; with the spread of his fame orders filled his hands, 
and he was called long distances to take likenesses of 
the dying or even of the dead. Audubon's facility in 
portraiture was a valuable resource, and it kept him 
from the starving line at many a pinch in later years. 

Through the influence of friends the naturalist was 
offered a position as taxidermist at a museum which had 
just been started at Cincinnati; here his family joined 
him in the winter of 1819-20, and here he remained for 
nearly a year. The published accounts of this Cincin- 
nati experience are strangely confused and have led to 
aspersions of bad faith which were, we believe, quite 
undeserved. "I was presented," said Audubon, "to the 
president of the Cincinnati College, Dr. Drake, and 
immediately formed an engagement to stuff birds for 
the museum there, in concert with Mr. Robert Best, an 
Englishman of great talent," adding that his salary was 
large ; so industrious were they, to continue his account, 
"that in about six months we had augmented, arranged, 
and finished all that we could do," but they found to 
their sorrow "that the members of the College museum 
were splendid promisers and very bad paymasters." * 

1 Maria R. Audubon, Audubon and his Journals (Bibl. No. 86), vol. i, 
p. 36. 


It has been stated that Audubon got nothing from Dr. 
Drake, but that "Mrs. Audubon afterwards received 
four hundred dollars, of the twelve hundred due," and 
that the remainder was never paid. 2 This matter can 
now be fully cleared up, and it will appear that the 
Cincinnati College was in no way involved; Dr. Drake 
was not its president, although he drew its charter and 
was one of its trustees; the Museum in which the nat- 
uralist worked was an independent foundation; and 
Mrs. Audubon was probably paid in full for the service 
which her husband had rendered. 

Audubon wrote in his journal in 1820, when this 
experience was fresh in his mind, that owing to his 
talent for stuffing fishes he entered the service of the 
Western Museum at a salary of $125 a month; he made 
no complaint at that time of any lack of pay. More- 
over, on the day before he started on his cruise down 
the Ohio River on the 11th of October of that year, 
the Rev. Elijah Slack gave him a letter of introduction 
in which he said that Audubon had "been engaged in 
our museum for 3 to 4 months, and that his perform- 
ances do honor to his pencil." Since Mr. Slack, like 
Dr. Drake, was one of the managers of the Western 
Museum, he must have known of Audubon's term of 
service. We are convinced that Dr. Daniel Drake, 3 

2 Ibid., vol. i, p. 49. 

3 Dr. Daniel Drake (1785-1852) was one of the most versatile and 
prolific writers on medicine which the West has ever produced, and 
Cincinnati owed to him much, for he was instrumental in organizing 
in that city a church, a literary society, a museum, a hospital, a college, 
and a school of medicine, while he enjoyed a large medical practice, lectured 
on botany, and was a partner in two mercantile establishments. We might 
also add that his "Notice concerning Cincinnati" (pp. 1-28, i-iv. Printed 
for the author at Cincinnati, 1810), of which only three copies are known 
to exist, is the earliest and rarest published record of that city. This 
little pamphlet included a "Flora" of the city for 1809, and from it we 
transcribe this interesting extract (p. 27): "May 10. Black locust in full 


whose character was above reproach and who was a 
keen naturalist himself, was Audubon's good friend, 
and that no misunderstanding ever rose between them. 
In writing offhand from memory, years after the events, 
Audubon misstated the facts but evidently without 

In 1818 Dr. Drake organized the Western Museum 
Society, of which he said: "I have drawn up the con- 
stitution in such a manner as to make the institution a 
complete school for natural history, and hope to see 
concentrated in this place, the choicest natural and arti- 
ficial curiosities in the Western Country." The first 
meeting of the Society was held in the summer of 1819, 
not long before Audubon was engaged to work for it. 
The membership fee was $50, a considerable sum for 
that period, but the enterprise was well patronized. It 
was in charge of a board of whom Dr. Drake was the 
moving spirit; another member, as we have seen, was 
Rev. Mr. Slack, who became the first president of the 
Cincinnati College, which was organized in 1818-19. 
The collections of the Museum were placed in one of 
the buildings of the College in order better to serve the 
students and public, which would account for some of 
the confusion noted above. 

Dr. Drake's hands at this time were more than full ; 
in October, 1819, he wrote to a friend: "The ties which 
bind me to the world at large seem every day to increase 
in strength and numbers. The crowd of mankind with 

"It is highly probable that the flowering of this beautiful tree, the 
Robinia pseudocaeia of Linnaeus, indicates the proper time for planting 
the important vegetable the Indian corn. For several successive years I 
have observed our farmers generally to plant corn during some stage of 
its flowering. This from the 10th to the 20th of May." 

For the privilege of examining one of the original copies of this 
paper, I am indebted to Mr. Wallace H. Cathcart of the Western Re- 
serve Historical Society of Cleveland. 


whom I have some direct or indirect concern, thickens 
around me, and I see little prospect of more leisure, 
nor any of retirement and seclusion." At this juncture 
also, when Audubon and Best were working for his 
Museum, Dr. Drake was experiencing the first disas- 
trous check in his energetic career. In January, 1820, 
in spite of the opposition and intrigue of professional 
rivals, he succeeded in organizing the Medical College 
of Ohio, and Robert Best became the assistant in chem- 
istry and the curator of the Western Museum. Opposi- 
tion did not abate, but instead of strangling the College 
which he had founded, the marplots succeeded in. ex- 
pelling the Doctor from its staff. At last, feeling 
obliged to leave the city, Dr. Drake accepted in 1823 
a position in the rival medical school of Transylvania 
University, and thus became a colleague of Constantine 
Rafinesque. It will be seen that Audubon's engage- 
ment at Cincinnati fell in a troubled era, and the annoy- 
ance which he may have felt at lack of pay was probably 
no fault of the harassed doctor. 

While at Cincinnati Audubon was obliged to resort 
to his crayon portraits; and he also started a drawing 
school, but it required all of Mrs. Audubon's skill in 
management to keep the family out of debt. In 1820 
he began for the first time seriously to consider the pos- 
sibility of publishing his drawings, and under the spur 
of this incentive began to exert himself as never before. 
He planned a long journey through the Middle West 
and South, his intention being to descend the Ohio and 
Mississippi Rivers, explore the country about New Or- 
leans, and then proceed as far east as the Florida Keys ; 
he wished also to ascend the Red River, cross Arkansas, 
and visit the Hot Springs, before returning again by 
river to Cincinnati. Lack of readv money was no draw- 


back, for he was now confident of being able to live 
by his talents alone. 

Accordingly, he left his wife to care for their two 
boys, and on October 12, 1820, started down river in a 
flatboat, bound for New Orleans. His companions on 
this journey were Captain Cummings, 4 an engineer who 
had been in the government service, to whom Audubon 
became much attached ; Joseph R. Mason, a promising 
artist of eleven, in the role of pupil-assistant, and his 
dog "Dash." Although Audubon had no funds, he was 
careful to provide himself with letters to or from men 
of mark who could be of assistance to him and this cus- 
tom was followed to good effect at a much later day. 
On this occasion he bore recommendations from 
William H. Harrison, who afterwards became Presi- 
dent, to Governor Miller of Arkansas, and from Henry 
Clay, as well as his letter from Rev. Elijah Slack, in 
which it was stated that the naturalist was traveling to 
complete his collection of the birds of the United States 
which he intended to publish at some future time. 
Audubon also wrote a personal letter to Governor 
Miller, fully outlining his plans, and asking for infor- 
mation ; he told the Governor that he had been working 
fifteen years, and that his drawings of birds and plants 
were all from nature and life-size, showing that the idea 
of publication which was afterwards realized was then 
fixed in his mind. Audubon kept a careful journal on 
this journey, which extended over a year, the last entry 
being for the close of 1821. 5 

4 See Audubon's letter to Thomas Sully, reproduced in Vol. II, p. 68. In 
his Ohio and Mississippi Rivers Journal Audubon wrote on April 5, 1821: 
"Cap. dimming left us on the 10 for Phila; the poor man had not one cent 
with him." 

5 This early journal fills a large unruled book, measuring about 13 by 
8 inches, of 201 pages, beginning with Oct. 12, 1820, and closing with 
December 31, 1821; it forms a part of the John E. Thayer collection of 


As their flatboat stopped at many towns and planta- 
tions on the rivers, Audubon could hunt game and birds 
to his heart's content. Having resolved, as he said, 
never to draw from a stuffed specimen, he worked at 
every new bird with the greatest diligence. It seems 
almost incredible that he should never have met with 
the Hermit Thrush before this journey, yet under date 
of "Oct. 14, 1820," there is this entry: "We returned 
to our boat with a Wild Turkey, a Telltale Godwit and 
a Hermit Thrush, which was too much torn to make a 
drawing of it ; this was the first time I had met with this 
bird, and I felt particularly mortified at its condition." G 

Their visit to Natchez furnished Audubon with ma- 
terials for at least two of his "Episodes." 7 This inci- 
dent of his generosity may be taken as characteristic; 
finding that one of his companions was down at the 
heel and as short of ready money as himself, he sought 
out a shoemaker and offered to do a portrait of the 
man and his wife for two pairs of boots; the proposal 
was accepted forthwith, and he set to work; the sketches 
were finished in the course of two hours, and Audubon 

Audubon and Wilson manuscripts and drawings in possession of Harvard 
University, having been once included in the estate of Joseph M. Wade. 
The collection embraces four early drawings by Audubon, presumably at 
one time in the hands of Edward Harris (see Note 9, Vol. I, p. 180) ; 73 of 
Audubon's original letters, comprising largely his correspondence with Dr. 
John Bachman; 60 letters by Victor G. Audubon; and a few by other mem- 
bers of the naturalist's family. See the Annual Report of the Curator of 
the Museum of Comparative Zoology for 1910-1911. 

Through the courtesy of Professor E. L. Mark, and the Director of 
the Museum, Dr. Samuel Henshaw, I have been permitted to examine 
these numerous documents. In any direct or casual reference to this 
valuable material, I have endeavored not to overstep the bounds of pro- 
priety, in view of the fact that the University contemplates publishing 
copious extracts from it at an early day. It should be noticed that 
excerpts from this journal have already appeared in print. See following 

6 See Ruthven Deane (Bibl. No. 41), The Auk, vol. xxi, pp. 334-338. 

' "Natchez in 1820" and "The Lost Portfolio," Ornithological Biography 
(Bibl. No. 2), vol. iii, pp. 529 and 564. 


and his companion, having selected their boots, went on 
their way rejoicing. 

Audubon left Natchez on December 31, 1820, on a 
keel boat belonging to his brother-in-law, Nicholas A. 
Berthoud, who accompanied him, and at one o'clock the 
steamer Columbus hauled off from the landing and 
took them in tow. Towards evening, when they were 
looking up their personal belongings, the naturalist 
found to his dismay that a portfolio containing all of 
the drawings that he had made on the voyage down the 
river was missing. Letters were despatched to Natchez 
friends, but it was not until the 16th of March that his 
anxiety was relieved; the missing portfolio had been 
found and left at the office of The Mississippi Repub- 
lican, whence it was forwarded on his order, and reached 
his hand on the 5th of April. "So very generous had 
been the finder of it," he said, "that when I carefully 
examined the drawings in succession, I found them all 
present and uninjured, save one, which had probably 
been kept by way of commission." 

On New Year's Day, 1821, they came to at Bayou 
Sara, at the mouth of the inlet of that name, which 
later saw much of Audubon and his family. On the 
following day he made a likeness of the master of their 
craft, Mr. Dickenson, for which he was paid in gold; 
he also outlined two warblers by candle-light in order 
to have time to finish them on the morrow. The captain 
of their steamer in his anxiety to make haste had set 
them adrift at this point, and they were obliged to make 
their way as best they could, by aid of the current and 
oars, to the port of New Orleans, which was finally 
entered on Sunday, January 7, 1821. 

Audubon landed at New Orleans without enough 
money to pay for a night's lodging, for someone had 


relieved him of the little he possessed, and he was obliged 
to pass several nights on the boat while looking for work. 
Undismayed by his financial straits, his first visit at day- 
break on Monday was to the famous markets of the 
southern city, where he found dead birds exposed for 
sale in great numbers — mallard, teal, American wid- 
geon, Canada and snow geese, mergansers, tell-tale god- 
wits, and even robins, bluebirds and red-wing black- 
birds ; he added that the prices were very dear. 

Upon leaving Cincinnati Audubon had resolved 
upon making one hundred drawings of birds; this was 
actually accomplished, but only after repeatedly modi- 
fying his plans and working in more humble capacities 
than he was at first inclined to consider. On the 12th 
of January he wrote in his diary of meeting an Italian 
painter at the theater, and of showing him his drawing 
of the White-headed Eagle 8 at the rooms of Mr. Ber- 
thoud; "he was much pleased," and took him "to his 
painting apartment at the theater, then to the directors, 
who very roughly offered me one hundred dollars per 
month to paint with Monsieur l'ltalien. I believe really 
now that my talents must be poor," said Audubon. His 
refusal of this offer in view of his straitened circum- 
stances, and the entry which followed, were character- 
istic: "Jan. 13th, 1821. I rose up early, tormented by 
many disagreeable thoughts, again nearly without a 
cent, in a bustling city where no one cares a fig for a 
man in my situation." The following day Audubon 
applied to a self-taught portrait painter, John W. 

8 The original of this admirable drawing had been shot at New Madrid, 
on the Ohio, on November 23, and Audubon, who immediately began to 
work on it, recorded his conviction that the White-headed or Bald Eagle 
and the "Brown Eagle," which he later called "The Bird of Washington," 
were two d'fferent species; he thought that the young of the former, which 
was also brown, was much smaller in size. See Vol. I, p. 241. 


Jarvis, and after showing his drawings, was engaged 
to assist him in finishing the "clothing and ground"; but 
this artist's manners were declared to be so uncouth 
and the pay so poor that he left him in disgust. 

When he had made a hit, as he said, with the like- 
ness of a well known citizen, orders came to him, and 
he was able to resume his drawing of birds. On Feb- 
ruary 22 he recorded that he had spent his time in 
"running after orders for portraits, and also in vain 
endeavors to obtain a sight of Alexander Wilson's 
'Ornithology,' but was unsuccessful in seeing the book, 
which is very high priced." Later, however, he appears 
to have succeeded in this quest, for on the 17th of that 
month he was able to send his wife twenty drawings of 
birds, eight of which were marked as "not described by 
Willson." Among them were the originals of some of 
the most famous of his plates, such as the Great-footed 
Hawk, the White-headed Eagle, and the Hen Turkey. 9 

Having seen in a newspaper a notice of an expedi- 
tion which the Government was about to send to the 

9 These drawings were as follows : 

"Common gallinule; Not described by Willson; 

"Common gull; Not described by Willson; 

"Marsh hawk; 

"Boat tailed grackle; Not described by Willson; 

"Common Crow; 

"Fish Crow; 

"Rail or Sora; 

"Marsh Tern; 

"Snipe; Not described by Willson; 

"Hermit Thrush; 

"Yellow Red poll Warbler; 

"Savannah Finch; 

"Bath Ground Warbler; Not described by Willson; 

"Brown Pelican; Not described by Willson; 

"Great Footed Hawk; 

"Turkey Hen; Not described by Willson; 

"Cormorant ; 

"Carrion Crow or Black Vulture; 

"Imber Diver; 

"White Headed or Bald Eagle." 


Pacific Coast, to survey the boundary of the territory 
that had been recently ceded by Spain, Audubon be- 
came much excited over a possible appointment as 
draughtsman and naturalist. He sat down at once and 
wrote a personal letter to President Monroe, while hun- 
dreds of imaginary birds of new and interesting kinds 
seemed to come within the range of his gun; on the 31st 
of March he was still pondering on the project, and al- 
though it is not likely that his letter ever reached the eye 
of the President, he did receive a recommendation from 
Governor Robertson of Louisiana. It was with this 
expedition in view that he sought an interview with John 
Vanderlyn, 10 an eminent painter of historical subjects, 
then working in New Orleans ; according to one version 
Vanderlyn treated him as a mendicant, and ordered 
him to lay down his portfolio in the lobby, but ended 
by giving him a very complimentary note, in which he 
praised his drawings without stint, particularly his 
studies of birds. 

During the five months spent at New Orleans in 
1821, Audubon attempted to support himself and his 
companion by means of their artistic talents, while he 
was pushing forward his ambitious design of figuring all 
of America's birds and most characteristic plants. That 
he received scant encouragement but many rebuffs is 
not surprising. They did succeed in obtaining a few 
pupils in drawing, and Audubon made a number of 
rapid portraits, but after living for a time on Ursuline 
Street, near the old Convent, and later shifting from 

10 Vanderlyn, like Audubon, had been a pupil of David at Paris; he 
produced historical paintings of merit, as well as panoramas, then coming 
into vogue; some of the latter were exhibited in the "Rotunda" which he 
erected for that purpose in City Hall Park, New York, but this enter- 
prise failed, and his building was seized by the city for debt. Vanderlyn 
died in absolute want in 1852. See Samuel Isham, The History of Ameri- 
can Painting (New York, 1915). 


one quarter to another, their finances had reached so 
low an ebb by the beginning of June that a move was 
imperative. Audubon then decided to go to Shipping- 
port, Kentucky, and on the 16th of June, with young 
Mason, he again boarded the steamer Columbus, John 
D'llart, captain, and started up river. An incident 
now occurred which affected the naturalist's whole after 
life by introducing him to one of the most favored spots 
in Louisiana, if not in the whole country, for the study 
of bird life, not to speak of the impressions which the 
charm of new scenery, a rich flora, and natural products 
of the most varied description must have then made 
on his mind. Mrs. James Pirrie, wife of a prosperous 
cotton planter of West Feliciana Parish, happened to 
be their fellow-passenger. Doubtless her curiosity was 
piqued by the winning manners and flowing locks of 
the artistic traveler, whose Gallic accent at once be- 
trayed his nationality. Whether Audubon had made 
her acquaintance previous to this journey or not is not 
known, but before it was ended his fine enthusiasm and 
ambitious plans had found a sympathizer, and he was 
engaged as tutor to Mrs. Pirrie's daughter at $60 a 
month. To further his ornithological pursuits it was 
understood that he and his companion should live at 
"Oakley," her husband's plantation, five miles from St. 
Francisville, on Bayou Sara, and that one-half of his 
time should be absolutely free for hunting and drawing. 
Thus, on June 18, 1821, was forged the link that 
bound the heart of Audubon to the State which was 
first in his affections, and which he would fain believe 
might have been the scene of his nativity. Well may 
the Louisianians of today adopt him as their son, for 
from that early time he cherished their State as in a pecu- 
liar sense his own. 


It was a hot and sultry day when our wanderers 
landed at Bayou Sara, 11 a small settlement at the junc- 
tion of the sluggish stream which bears that name and 
the Mississippi, and proceeded to climb to St. Francis- 
ville, the village a mile away on the hill. Mrs. Pirrie, 
who seems to have preceded the travelers by carriage, 
sent some of her servants to relieve them of their lug- 
gage, which Audubon said they found light. They 
rested in the village at the house of Mr. Benjamin 
Swift, where they were invited to stay to dinner, then 
at the point of being served, but feeling somewhat ill 
at ease, they thanked their host and again took to the 
road. Following their leisurely guides, they now 
traversed a country so new, so strange, and so enchant- 
ing, that the five miles to the Pirrie house seemed short 
indeed, "The rich magnolias, covered with fragrant 
blossoms, the holly, the beech, the tall yellow poplar, the 
hilly ground, and even the red clay," to quote Audu- 
bon's record made at the time, "all excited my admira- 
tion. Such an entire change in the face of nature, in 
so short a time, seems almost supernatural, and sur- 
rounded once more by numerous warblers and thrushes, 
I enjoyed the scene." 

In passing up the Mississippi from New Orleans, 
the topography of the country suddenly changes at 

11 "Bayou," in Louisiana, is a term commonly applied to any slow- 
running stream. According to the tradition gathered on the spot by Mr. 
Stanley C. Arthur, both stream and settlement were formerly called "New 
Valentia," while the present name was derived from an old woman called 
"Sara," who many years ago lived at the mouth of the Bayou, where she 
practiced some sort of spurious physic. St. Francisville, on the hill, re- 
ceived its name from the circumstance that the brothers of St. Francis, 
who had a mission at Pointe Coupee, on the opposite bank, were in the 
habit of ferrying their dead over the river, in order to bury them on 
the high ground; "Bayou Sara" and "St. Francisville" are used interchange- 
ably by the inhabitants. See S. C. Arthur (Bibl. No. 230), Times-Picayune, 
New Orleans, August 6, 1916. 



This and the above after photographs by Mr. Stanley Clisby Arthur. 1916. 


about this point; in the parish of West Feliciana the 
alluvial lowlands of the river valley give place to beau- 
tiful highlands, which still harbor as rich and distinctive 
a flora and fauna as in Audubon's day. Following 
Audubon's course in June, 1916, or ninety-five years 
later, Mr. Arthur found the region about St. Francis- 
ville wonderfully rich in birds, and there noted seventy- 
eight resident kinds which were seen on the same day, 
from shortly before noon to seven o'clock in the evening. 

Upon reaching the plantation house, Audubon and 
his companion were kindly received by the Scotchman, 
James Pirrie, who introduced to them his daughter, 
Eliza, then a beautiful and talented girl of seventeen — 
"my lovely Miss Pirrie, of Oakley," as Audubon once 
characterized her in his journal — who was to become his 
pupil in drawing, and who, as after events proved, was 
destined to a romantic and checkered career. 

The "Oakley" house, which by a strange turn of 
fortune's wheel thus became the naturalist's home in the 
summer of 1821, has changed but little since that time, 
but the century that has nearly sped its course has added 
strength and beauty to the moss-hung oaks which now 
encompass it and temper the heat of the southern sun 
in the double-decked galleries which adorn its whole 
front. Built of the enduring cypress, as my correspond- 
ent remarks, the house stands as firm and sound as the 
gaunt but living sentinels of that order which tower 
from the brake not far away. 

Audubon spent nearly five months at the Pirrie 
estate. He worked with great ardor at his Ornithology 
and produced the originals of many of his plates that 
were afterwards published, while his assistant, Joseph 
Mason, who had followed him from Cincinnati, labored 
with equal diligence at the plants that were chosen as a 


setting for the birds. 12 An early drawing of the Chuck 
Will's Widow is dated "Red River, June, 1821," and it 
is probable that he followed this stream into Arkansas, 
for on leaving Cincinnati in the autumn of the previous 
year, he had planned to enter that State, and later ref- 
erences in his journals clearly imply that this object 
was attained. Another favorite hunting ground was 
Thompson's Creek, and he often recalled its heated 
banks, where, on a Fourth of July, he once satisfied his 
hunger by "swallowing the roasted eggs of a large soft 
shelled turtle." 

On August 11, 1821, while Audubon was living at 
"Oakley," he made this entry in his journal: 

Watched all night by the dead body of a friend of Mrs. 

P ; he was not known to me, and he had literally drunk 

himself to an everlasting sleep. Peace to his soul! I made a 
good sketch of his head, as a present for his poor wife. On 
such occasions time flies very slow indeed, so much so that it 
looked as if it stood still, like the hawk that poises over its 

In the same journal also, for August 25, occurs a 
record which throws light on one of Audubon's most 
discussed and questionable pictures, that of the mock- 
ing-birds defending their jessamine-embowered nest 
from the sinister designs of a rattlesnake ; 13 little did he 

12 On the original drawing of the Pine-creeping Warbler The Birds of 
America (Plate cxl), the following legends appear in Audubon's autograph: 
"Drawn from Nature by John J. Audubon, James Pirrie's Plantation, 
Louisiana, July 10, 1821. Plant, J. R. Mason." 

Sixteen of Audubon's originals, which still bear the designations of 
time and place, were produced during this interval, in the year 1821; 
they embrace the Mississippi Kite (Plate cxvii, see Vol. I, p. 228), June 28; 
Yellow-throated A T ireo (Plate cxix), July 11; Red-cockaded Woodpecker 
(Plate ccclxxxix), July 29; American Redstart (Plate xl), August 13; 
Summer Red-bird (Plate xliv), August 27; Prairie Warbler (Plate xiv), 
Sept. 3; and the Tennessee Warbler (Plate cliv), Oct. 17. 

13 The Birds of America, Plate xxi. 


think at the time how much discord this venomous rep- 
tile, when coiled in the branches of a tree, could later 
breed. 14 The entry was: 

Finished drawing a very fine specimen of a rattlesnake, 
which measured five feet and seven inches, weighed six and a 
quarter pounds, and had ten rattles. Anxious to give it a 
position most interesting to a naturalist, I put it in that which 
the reptile commonly takes when on the point of striking madly 
with its fangs. I had examined many before, and especially 
the position of the fangs along the superior jaw-bones, but 
had never seen one showing the whole [of the fangs] exposed at 
the same time. 

He then described the generous provision which nature 
has made to keep the rattlesnake in fighting trim, by 
giving it a dental arsenal on which it can draw in case 
of loss ; he added that the heat of the day was such that 
he could devote only sixteen hours to the drawing. 

At this time Audubon was a handsome and attrac- 
tive man; his pupil, who did not enjoy the best of health, 
was attended by a young physician who was also her 
lover. It is not surprising therefore to learn that jeal- 
ousy on the part of the doctor led to a misunderstanding, 
and that the naturalist suddenly made his departure and 
returned to New Orleans. In recording this incident 
Audubon could not repress his amusement at the pre- 
scription of the physician, who ordered the young lady 
to abstain from all writing and drawing for a period of 
four months, but meanwhile permitted her to eat any- 
thing which pleased her fancy, in spite of the relapses 
of fever that occasionally occurred. Audubon was al- 
lowed to see her only at appointed hours, as if, he said, 
he were an extraordinary ambassador to some distant 

14 See Chapter XXVIII, p. 73. 


court, and was obliged to preserve the utmost decorum 
of manner ; he expressed the belief that he had not once 
laughed in the presence of the young lady during the 
entire term of his tutorial engagement, which lasted 
from the 18th of June to the 21st of October. Later, 
in December of the same year, when his former pupil 
passed him without recognition in the streets of New 
Orleans, he indulged in the reflection that she had ap- 
parently quite forgotten the great pains with which at 
her own request he had done her portrait in pastels, 
but, thanks to his talents, he thought that he could run 
the gauntlet of the world without her help. 15 

At New Orleans Audubon soon found new pupils, 
particularly through the aid of Mr. R. Pamar and Mr. 
William Brand, 13 who came to his assistance, Mrs. 
Brand and her son paying him at the rate of three dol- 
lars for a lesson of one hour. On November 10, 1821, 
he wrote: 

Continued my close application to my ornithology, writing 
every day, from morning until night, omitting no observations, 
correcting, re-arranging from my notes and measurements, and 
posting up; particularly all my land birds. The great many 
errors I found in the work of Wilson astonished me. I try to 
speak of them with care, and as seldom as possible, knowing 
the good will of that man, and the vast many hearsay accounts 
he depended on. 

15 The vivacious Miss Pirrie did not marry the young doctor, hut 
eloped to Natchez with the son of a neighboring planter, who died within 
a month in consequence of a cold, said to have been contracted when he 
waded a deep stream with his lady-love in his arms. Audubon's pupil 
was thrice married, and bore five children; she died April 20, 1851, and 
her ashes now rest by the side of her second husband, the Reverend 
William Robert Bowman, the parish minister at St. Francisville. See 
Arthur (Bibl. No. 230), loc. cit. 

10 Mistakenly written "Braud" in the first edition of the present 



This and the above after photographs by Mr. Stanley Clisby Arthur, 1916. 


Again, on the 25th of that month is this entry: 

Since I left Cincinnati I have finished 62 drawings of birds 
and plants, 3 quadrupeds, 2 snakes, fifty portraits of all sorts, 
and the large one of Father Antonio, 17 besides giving many 
lessons, and I have made out to send money to my wife suffi- 
cient for her and my Kentucky lads, and to live in humble com- 
fort with only my talents and industry, without one cent to 
begin on. I sent a draft to my wife, and began to live in New 
Orleans with forty-two dollars, health, and much anxiety to 
pursue my plan of collecting all the birds of America. 

The close of the year 1821 found Audubon teaching 
a few pupils at New Orleans, where, he said, his style of 
work and the large prices he received caused him the 
ill will of every artist in the city. The figure which he 
cut in the streets, with his loose dress of nankeen and 
long, flowing locks, made him wish to appear like other 
people, and he was soon able to rejoice in a new suit of 
clothes. Though still in need of work, when he was 
asked to aid in painting a panorama of New Orleans, 
he refused, begrudging the time, saying that he did not 
wish to see any other perspective than that of the last 
of his drawings. 

Having been from home for over a year, Audubon 
now wished to have his family about him again. 18 His 

17 Father Antonio de Sedella, popularly known as "Pere Antoine," 
after 1791 pastor of St. Louis Cathedral; an idol of the people, but 
execrated by historians. 

"This seditious priest is a Father Antoine; he is a great favorite 
of the Louisiana ladies; has married many of them, and christened all 
their children; he is by some citizens esteemed an accomplished hypocrite, 
has great influence with the people of color, and, report says, embraces 
every opportunity to render them discontented under the American Gov- 
ernment." Executive Journal of Governor Claiborne. See Charles Gayarre, 
History of Louisiana, vol. iv, pp. 154-155 (New Orleans, 1903). 

18 This item occurs in Audubon's journal for October 25; "Rented a 
house in Dauphine street at seventeen dollars per month, and determined 
to bring my family to New Orleans." 


plan did not appeal to his practical wife, who had many 
friends at Cincinnati, where she was assured of a good 
income through her teaching; Mrs. Audubon also felt 
that to be constantly shifting about was anything but 
favorable to the education of their children. Her re- 
luctance, however, gave way, and in December she 
joined her husband in New Orleans, but only to find 
that the city could afford them no settled means of sup- 
port. The situation of the Audubon family during the 
winter of 1821-22 became precarious in the extreme, and 
for two months Audubon gave up his habit of journal- 
izing, one reason being that he could not afford the 
paltry sum necessary to buy a blank book for this pur- 

Compelled at last to make a new move, Audubon 
started for Natchez, on the 16th of March, 1822, paying 
for his passage on the steamer Eckit by doing a crayon 
portrait of the captain and his wife. It was while going 
up the river at this time that he opened a chest containing 
two hundred of his drawings to find them sadly dam- 
aged by the breaking of a bottle of gunpowder, but the 
loss then sustained was apparently slight in comparison 
with that which he had experienced in an earlier disaster. 
To follow his account of this earlier and better known 
incident, when leaving Henderson for Philadelphia, 
he carefully placed all of his drawings in a wooden 
box and entrusted them to the care of a friend, with in- 
junction that no harm should befall them; upon return- 
ing several months later, his treasure chest was opened, 
but only to reveal that "a pair of Norway rats had taken 
possession of the whole, and had reared a young family 
amongst the gnawed bits of paper, which but a few 
months before represented nearly a thousand inhabi- 
tants of the air." The heat that was immediately felt 


in his head, said the naturalist, was too great to be en- 
dured, and the days that followed were days of oblivion 
to him; but upon recuperation he took up his gun, his 
notebook and his pencils, "and went forth to the woods 
as gaily as if nothing had happened"; after a lapse of 
three years his portfolio was again filled, and the earlier 
work replaced by better. Audubon's drawings and 
plates were also repeatedly ravaged by fires, but this 
was at a much later day. 

While Audubon was engaged in teaching French, 
music, or drawing, now to private pupils at Natchez, 
now in a school at Washington, Mississippi, nine miles 
away, the summer of 1822 passed with the outlook as 
ominous as ever. On August 23 he wrote: "My friend, 
Joseph Mason, left me today, and we experienced great 
pain at parting. I gave him paper and chalks to work 
his way with, and the double barrelled-gun . . . which 
I had purchased in Philadelphia in 1805." Mason, who, 
for a year and nine months, was Audubon's aid and con- 
stant companion, seems to have settled eventually as an 
artist in Philadelphia, where we hear of him in 1824 
and again in 1827. 19 

In the following December Audubon received a 
fresh impetus towards the goal of his ambition by the 
arrival at Natchez of a traveling portrait painter, named 
John Stein, who gave him his first lessons in the use 
of oils ; his initial attempt was the copy of an otter from 
one of his own drawings. Audubon and Stein together 
later painted a full-length portrait of Father Antonio 
which was sent to Havana. Artists who have worked 
long in one medium are not always successful in another, 
but those who have seen some of Audubon's later and 
better works in oil, such as his large canvas of the Wild 

19 See Audubon's letter to Sully, Vol. II, p. 69. 


Turkeys, 20 must admit that he attained a high degree 
of skill. As will be seen, this acquisition was a strong 
string to his bow; when in England his brush helped 
largely to pay for the issue of his early plates. 

Mrs. Audubon, who joined her husband in New 
Orleans on December 8, 1821, soon felt obliged to seek 
employment. She engaged as nurse or governess in the 
family of Mr. Brand, presumably the same whose wife 
and son had received instruction in drawing from the 
naturalist the previous autumn, and remained with that 
family until September, 1822, when the death of the 
child that was placed in her charge left her free to follow 
her husband to Natchez. After attempting a similar po- 
sition in the home of a clergyman there and finding it 
impossible to obtain her salary, in January, 1823, she 
was invited by the Percys to West Feliciana, 21 then a 
prosperous cotton district, at the apex of the salient 
made by the neighboring state of Mississippi and bor- 
dered on two sides by the great river. Her worth was 
evidently appreciated, for she was encouraged to estab- 
lish a private school on the Percys' plantation, which 
she conducted successfully for five years. 

Captain Robert Percy, who before coming to Amer- 
ica in 1796 had been an officer in the British Navy, 
was living at this time with his wife and five children 
at their plantation of "Weyanoke," on Big Sara Creek, 
fifteen miles from St. Francisville ; this town, owing to 
its large shipments of cotton, was then at the height 

20 Now in the collection of Mr. John E. Thayer, Lancaster, Mass. 

"Mr. Stanley C. Arthur, whose recent visit to this region has already 
been noticed, gathered there from the lips of old residents, some of whom 
were descendants of those who had known the Audubons, a store of reliable 
data by which the history of the naturalist at this important phase of 
his life is revealed in its true light; to him I am indebted for a series 
of excellent photographs of the region, its historic houses and people, as 
well as for much needed information. See Arthur (Bibl. No. 230), loc. cit. 


of prosperity, and its population no doubt exceeded 
that of the present day ; it now stands at about one thou- 
sand souls. Letters and journals of the period constant- 
ly refer to "Beechwoods," which was not the mansion 
house, though it undoubtedly belonged to the Robert 
Percy estate. There it was that the wife of the natural- 
ist lived, and there she started her school, for the benefit 
not only of the Percy boys and girls, but also of a lim- 
ited number of children of their wealthy neighbors ; her 
own son, John Woodhouse Audubon, then eleven years 
of age, at this time received instruction at her hands. 
The parish of West Feliciana, at this early period, was 
one of the richest cotton-producing sections of the entire 
State; its care-free planters led an easy life until the 
"king" was unceremoniously dethroned by a small, but 
not insignificant insect which has proved mightier than 
either fire or sword, namely, the boll-weevil ; now many 
a fine old estate which has languished under the influ- 
ence of the pest could probably be bought for a song. 
"Beechwoods," thus devoted to educational purposes, 
later came into the hands of Thomas Percy, but the 
house, like that of "Weyanoke," was long since burned 
to the ground. 

While Mrs. Audubon was establishing her rules and 
authority at the Percy school, the naturalist was paint- 
ing with Stein at Natchez, and he remained there with 
his elder son until the spring of 1823. At this period 
he wrote in his journal: "I had finally determined to 
break through all bonds, and follow my ornithological 
pursuits. My best friends solemnly regarded me as a 
madman, and my wife and family alone gave me encour- 
agement. My wife determined that my genius should 
prevail, and that my final success as an ornithologist 
should be triumphant." 


In March, 1823, Audubon and friend Stein bought 
a horse and wagon, and in the hope of raising money 
through their joint efforts as itinerant portrait painters, 
set out with Victor on a tour of the Southern States. 
This venture, however, did not succeed, and after visit- 
ing Jackson and a number of other towns, they disband- 
ed at New Orleans. Audubon then started north with 
his son for Louisville, but upon paying a visit to his wife 
at the "Beechwoods" school, he was invited by the Percys 
to remain there for the summer and "teach the young 
ladies music and drawing." According to a tradition 
which has survived among the Percy descendants, Audu- 
bon spent most of his time in roaming through the woods, 
but he also taught his wife's pupils to swim in the large 
spring house at "Weyanoke," where the water could be 
deepened at pleasure. It was also said that he painted 
the Wild Turkeys in the woods of Sleepy Hollow near 
by, but I have already given Audubon's own record in 
regard to one of these pictures, and, as Mr. Arthur re- 
marks, the places in Louisiana where he drew these 
famous subjects are as numerous as the beds in which 
Lafayette slept when at New Orleans. 

Audubon remained with the Percys during the 
greater part of the summer, or until some misunder- 
standing arose, when he was again adrift and upon a sea 
of difficulties. While visiting a plantation near Natchez, 
both he and Victor were stricken with fever ; his faithful 
wife hastened to them, and after nursing both back to 
health, she returned with them to the Percy plantation, 
where they remained from the 8th to the 30th of Sep- 

In the autumn of 1823 Audubon was determined to 
visit Philadelphia, in the hope of finding a sponsor for 
his "Ornithology." Although the work was then far 


from ready for publication, he felt that at least he might 
better his condition, and with this end in view he sent 
his drawings from Natchez to that city; a hasty visit 
was made also to New Orleans, for the purpose, no 
doubt, of obtaining credentials to possible patrons in 
the East. At last, on October 3, he started with Victor 
on the steamer Magnet 12 for Louisville. Low water 
quickly held them up after entering the mouth of the 
Ohio, and they were obliged to disembark at the little 
village of Trinity, at the mouth of Cash Creek, the scene 
of Audubon's misadventures with Rozier thirteen years 
before. The remoteness of the situation and the state 
of their funds, which corresponded with that of the 
river, left no alternative but to walk, and they under- 
took to reach Louisville, several hundred miles distant, 
afoot. Two other travelers joined them, and with Vic- 
tor, then a lad of nearly fourteen, the party left the creek 
at noon on October 15 and struck across country through 
the forests and canebrakes. At Green River, which was 
reached on the 21st, Victor gave out from sheer exhaus- 
tion, 23 and the remainder of the journey was finished 
in a Jersey wagon. At length, said Audubon, "I en- 
tered Louisville with thirteen dollars in my pocket." 
At Shippingport, then an independent town at the Falls 
of the Ohio, he was obliged to settle down for the win- 
ter. A place for Victor was found in the counting- 
house of Nicholas A. Berthoud, while the father under- 
took anything that came to hand, painting portraits, 
landscapes, panels for river boats, and even street signs, 

"One of the early steamboats on the Ohio that had been built at 
Pittsburgh, in 1821, by Thomas W. Bakewell, his brother-in-law and 
former partner. 

23 See "A Tough Walk for a Youth," Ornithological Biography (Bibl. 
No. 2), vol. iii, p. 371; and "The Hospitality of the Woods," ibid., vol. i, 
p. 383. 


so hard pressed was he at times to eke out a subsistence 
for them both. Yet Audubon was as sanguine as ever, 
and on November 9 he recorded the resolution "to paint 
one hundred views of American scenery," and added: 
"I shall not be surprised to find myself seated at the 
foot of Niagara," a prediction which was fulfilled in 
the following year. 

During the winter spent at Shippingport, Audubon 
lost a gentle friend in Madame Berthoud,- 4 the mother 
of Nicholas. In his journal for January 20, 1824, we 
read his emotional words: 

I arose this morning by the transparent light which is the 
effect of the moon before dawn, and saw Dr. Middleton passing 
at full gallop towards the white house ; I followed — alas ! my 
old friend was dead ! . . . many tears fell from my eyes, ac- 
customed to sorrow. It was impossible for me to work ; my 
heart, restless, moved from point to point all round the com- 
pass of my life. Ah Lucy ! what have I felt to-day ! . . . I 
have spent it thinking, thinking, learning, weighing my 
thoughts, and quite sick of life. I wished I had been as quiet 
as my venerable friend, as she lay for the last time in her 

"This lady had a remarkable history. She was the widow of the 
Marquis de Saint Pie, and was at one time a dame d'honneur of Queen 
Marie Antoinette; like many others of noble birth, she had fled from Paris 
during the Revolution, and emigrated to America, where with her husband 
she assumed the name of Berthoud. Her son, Nicholas Augustus, had 
married Mrs. Audubon's sister, Eliza Bakewell, in 1810. 



Audubon makes his bow at Philadelphia — Is greeted with plaudits and 
cold water — Friendship of Harlan, Sully, Bonaparte and Harris- 
Hostility of Ord, Lawson and other friends of Alexander Wilson — A 
meeting of academicians— Visit to "Mill Grove"— Exhibits drawings in 
New York and becomes a member of the Lyceum — At the Falls of 
Niagara— In a gale on Lake Erie — Episode at Meadville — Walk to 
Pittsburgh — Tour of Lakes Ontario and Champlain — Decides to take his 
drawings to Europe— Descends the Ohio in a skiff — Stranded at Cin- 
cinnati — Teaching at St. Francisville. 

In 1824 after five hard years of struggle and em- 
barrassment, Audubon decided that the time had come 
to bring his labors to the light of day. At thirty-nine, 
he read and spoke two languages but was without ade- 
quate training in either ; he had never written a line for 
publication, and to the scientific world he was a stranger. 
Though without a definite plan, he cherished the ardent 
hope of presenting the birds of his beloved America as 
he had depicted them, to the size of life, and with all 
the added interest and zest that a natural environment 
could give them. 

To Philadelphia the naturalist now turned his steps, 
for that city was then a Mecca for scientific men. Leav- 
ing Shippingport in March, he reached the Quaker 
capital on the fifth day of April. There he purchased 
a new suit of clothes, and, dressed "with extreme neat- 
ness," paid his respects to Dr. William Mease, the one 
friend there whom he had known intimately in his 
younger and more prosperous days. It was primarily 



through this excellent man's interest that Audubon met 
the leading artists and scientific men of the city, in- 
cluding Thomas Sully, Robert and Rembrandt Peale, 
Richard Harlan, Charles Le Sueur, and Charles L. 
Bonaparte, the latter then a rising young ornithologist 
of one and twenty. It was Bonaparte who introduced 
Audubon to the Academy of Natural Sciences, where 
his drawings were exhibited and generally admired. 
Among his critics on that occasion was George Ord, 
who from their first interview seems to have looked upon 
the new luminary with jealous eyes. Whether this was 
true or not, there is no doubt that Ord became one of 
his few really bitter and implacable adversaries, and 
not many days elapsed before Audubon came to feel 
that many in Philadelphia would be glad to see him 
return to the backwoods of the Middle West, from 
which, like an apple of Sodom, he seemed suddenly to 
have dropped into their midst. Those who were most 
interested in the continued sale and success of Wilson's 
Ornithology, he declared, advised him not to publish 
anything, and threw not only cold water but ice upon 
all his plans. Thus began that unseemly rivalry, fos- 
tered for many years by George Ord in this country, 
between the friends of Alexander Wilson and those of 
John James Audubon, the dead embers of which are oc- 
casionally stirred even to this day. 1 

Ord, who was about Audubon's own age, was a quiet, 
persistent, and unassuming worker, held in high esteem 
by many of his associates. Audubon seems to have done 
his best to conciliate him then and at a later day, but 
all to no purpose ; Dr. Harlan once advised him to give 
up the attempt, since Ord, he declared, had no heart 
for friendship, having been denied that blessing by 

1 See Chapter XIV. 


nature herself. Ord, as we have seen, had edited the 
eighth and written the ninth, or concluding, volume of 
Wilson's American Ornithology, as well as a life of its 
author ; the appearance of a new star in the ornithologi- 
cal horizon may not have been a welcome sight. At 
all events, we soon find him engaged upon a new edition 
of Wilson's work. 2 Ord had objected to Audubon's 
method of combining plants and other accessories with 
his drawings of birds, a criticism that in the case of 
purely technical works could be easily sustained, and 
some of his later charges, though carried too far, were 
not wholly without foundation. 3 

Bonaparte, 4 on the other hand, was captivated by 

2 This was the third edition of the American Ornithology, issued by 
Messrs. Collins & Company in New York and by Harrison Hall of Phila- 
delphia, in three octavo volumes, with an atlas of 7G plates colored by 
hand, in 1838-9. Mr. Hall, who appears to have been the person most 
interested financially in this edition, was a brother of James Hall, author 
of a notorious review in which this work was praised at the expense of 
Audubon, who was viciously attacked (see Bibliography, No. 133). Friends 
of Audubon repeatedly asserted that as soon as his popularity and success 
began to check the sales of Wilson's work, Ord and a few others, aided by 
interested publishers, began a systematic series of attacks, some notice of 
which is taken in Chapter XXVIII. 

3 See Chapter XIV. 

4 Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte, Prince of Canino and 
Musignano, the eldest son of Lucien, and nephew of Napoleon, Bonaparte, 
was born at Paris in 1803, and died there in 1857. At this time he 
was settled with his uncle and father-in-law, Joseph Bonaparte, former King 
of Spain, at Philadelphia, and there and at Bordentown, New Jersey, 
where Joseph had an estate, he undertook the study of American birds. 
His best known scientific works are: American Ornithology, or the Natural 
History of the Birds of the United States, not Given by Wilson, 4 volumes, 
quarto, with 27 colored plates, Philadelphia, 1825-1833; and Iconographica 
della Fauna Italica, Rome, 1833-1841. In 1828 he retired to Italy, where 
he was devoted to literary and scientific pursuits. He was an early sub- 
scriber to Audubon's Birds of America, but their relations were somewhat 
strained on the publication of the Ornithological Biography in 1831 (see 
Chapter XXIX). Bonaparte later entered politics in Italy, and was 
leader of the republican party at Rome in 1848 and 1849; after having been 
expelled from France by the order of Louis Napoleon, he was permitted 
to return in 1850, and became director of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. 

He was a closet naturalist rather than a field student, but did much 
for the reform of nomenclature. In his Ornithology the number of American 
birds was raised to 3G6, nearly one hundred having been added since the 


Audubon's drawings and anxious to secure his services 
for his own work, then well in hand. This was the 
American Ornithology, for which Titian R. Peale was 
then making the drawings, and Thomas Lawson, who 
had been Wilson's engraver, was engaged on the plates ; 
though quite distinct in itself, this was much in the style 
of Wilson's earlier work, of which it was virtually a 
continuation. When Bonaparte introduced Audubon 
to these men, it is not surprising that the meeting was 
not productive of the best of feeling on either side. 
Peale's stiff and rather conventional portraits of birds 
naturally failed to awaken enthusiasm in "the trader 
naturalist," as some who looked upon him as a rival 
rather contemptuously called him. The interview with 
Lawson, if correctly reported by his friend, 5 shows that 
his interest could not have been of the most disinterested 
sort. "Lawson told me," said this reporter, "that he 
spoke freely of the pictures, and said that they were ill 
drawn, not true to nature, and anatomically incorrect." 
Thereupon Bonaparte defended them warmly, saying 
that he would buy them and that Lawson should en- 
grave them. "You may buy them," said the Scotchman, 
"but I will not engrave them . . . because ornithology 
requires truth in the forms, and correctness in the lines. 
Here are neither." Other meetings are said to have fol- 
lowed, but to have ended only in mutual dislike. Never- 
theless, one of Audubon's drawings was engraved by 
Lawson and appeared in Bonaparte's work, but most 

work of Wilson was revised by Ord, but he added only two that were 
new, Cooper's Hawk, (Accipiter cooperi), named after William Cooper of 
New York, and Say's Phosbe (Sayornis saya), dedicated to Thomas Say, and 
first procured by Titian R. Peale in the Rocky Mountain districts of the 
Far West. Perhaps his most important technical work, the Conspectus 
Gene-rum Avium, begun in 1850, was incomplete at the time of his death. 

5 William Dunlap, History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of 
Design in the United States (Bibl. No. 59), vol. ii, p. 402 (New York, 1834). 

6 The Boat-tailed Grackle, vol. i, plate iv. 


of the figures in Bonaparte's concluding volumes were 
by the hand of a German named Alexander Rider. It 
was doubtless a fortunate circumstance that the preju- 
dice and obstinacy of this overbearing Scot was a bar 
to any further absorption of Audubon's talents. 7 

Audubon met at this time a more appreciative en- 
graver in Mr. Fairman, who urged him to take his draw- 
ings to Europe and have them engraved in a superior 
style; on July 12 the naturalist wrote that he had drawn 
"for Mr. Fairman a small grouse to be put on a bank- 
note belonging to the State of New Jersey." By some 
lucky chance this incident brought him the acquaintance 
of Edward Harris, 8 whom he met that summer in Phila- 
delphia, and who became one of his most constant and 
disinterested friends. It was Harris who a few days 
after their meeting took all of the drawings which Au- 
dubon had for sale and at the artist's own prices ; 9 who 
for years was continually sending him rare or desirable 
specimens of birds; who accompanied him through the 
Southern States to Florida in 1837 and on the famous 

7 He seems, however, to have supplied Bonaparte liberally with notes, 
for after devoting fifteen pages to the biography of the Wild Turkey, 
Audubon said: "A long account of this remarkable bird has already 
been given in Bonaparte's American Ornithology, volume I. As that 
account was in a great measure derived from notes furnished by myself, 
you need not be surprised, good reader, to find it often in accordance 
with the above." Ornithological Biography (Bibl. No. 2), vol. i, p. 16. 

8 Edward Harris was born at Morristown, New Jersey, in 1799, where 
he died in 1863. Without the incentive to earn money or the ambition 
to acquire fame, he lived the life of a gentleman of leisure, devoted to 
natural history, to sport and to the cultivation of his paternal acres. He 
had the gift of friendship, was widely traveled, wrote charming letters, 
and kept careful records of his observations, but rarely published any- 
thing. The breeding of fine stock was one of his hobbies, and as a 
result of a journey to Europe in 1839, when he visited a horse fair in 
Normandy, he is credited with having first introduced the Norman breed 
into America. "The beneficent results of his quiet, unobtrusive life," says 
an appreciative biographer, "reach down to our time, and, after half a 
century, we are glad that Edward Harris lived." See biographical sketch 
by George Spencer Morris, in Caasinia, vol. vi (Philadelphia, 1902). 

9 See Chapter XII, p. 179. 

^^*^i^O^%&. //2S* 

thxe- *W ^i ^ ~7~"y VX ^ 


From the Jeanes MSS. Audubon's last letter to Edward Harris, from the 
same source, is reproduced in Volume II, page 287. 



Missouri River Expedition in 1843. Edward Harris 
became a patron of science through his friendship with 
scientific men, and many besides Audubon were indebted 
to him for judicious advice as well as more substantial 

The Academy of Natural Sciences, founded in 1812, 
was well established at this time, and its rapidly grow- 
ing Museum was already the largest and most valuable 
in the New World; ornithology was a favored subject, 
and the Academy's roll embraced every American pio- 
neer worker of note in the entire field of the natural 
sciences. The following account of a meeting of the 
Academy, held on October 11, 1825, when Ord presided, 
has been preserved in a letter of the period : 


A few evenings since I was associated with a society of gen- 
tlemen, members of the Academy of Natural Sciences. There 
were present fifteen or twenty. Among the number were Le 
Sueur, Rafinesque, Say, Peale, Pattison, Harlan, and Charles 
Lucien Bonaparte. 

Among this collection life was most strikingly exemplified: 
Le Sueur, with a countenance weather-beaten and worn, looked 
on, for the muscles of his ironbound visage seemed as incapable 
of motion, as those on the medals struck in the age of Julius 
Caesar. Rafinesque has a fine black eye, rather bald and black 
hair, and withal is rather corpulent. I was informed that he 
was a native of Constantinople ; at present he lives in Ken- 
tucky. Dr. Harlan is a spruce young man. . . . Peale is 
the son of the original proprietor of the Philadelphia Museum, 
and one who visited the Rocky Mountains with Major Long; 
he is a young man, and has no remarkable indications of 
countenance to distinguish him. Say, who was his companion 

10 Written by Dr. Edmund Porter of Frenchtown, New Jersey, to 
Dr. Thomas Miner of Haddam, Connecticut, on October 25, 1825. See 
Witmer Stone, "Some Philadelphia Ornithological Collections and Col- 
lectors, 1784-1850," The Auk, vol. xvi (Xew York, 1899). 


in the same expedition, is an extremely interesting man ; to 
him I am particularly obligated for showing me their Museum 
and Library. I think he told me that their society had pub- 
lished nine volumes. . . . Bonaparte is the son of Lucien Bona- 
parte and nephew to the Emperor Napoleon ; he is a little set, 
black-eyed fellow, quite talkative, and withal interesting and 

Among the working naturalists at Philadelphia Dr. 
Richard Harlan was possibly one whose friendship was 
most valuable to Audubon; the artist from whom he 
received most encouragement was Thomas Sully, the 
portrait painter, who took him into his studio and gave 
him lessons in the use of oils. Sully was one of those 
who saw the good side of Audubon's character, discerned 
his talent, and predicted for him a great future; at a 
later day Sully was able to rejoice in finding his predic- 
tion amply fulfilled. 11 

Convinced that the advice which Fairman and Bona- 
parte had given him was sound, Audubon decided to 
look to Europe for a publisher of his Birds, and with this 
end in view, set hard to work at his drawings. "I had 
some pupils offered," he said, "at a dollar per lesson; 
but I found the citizens unwilling to pay for art, al- 
though they affected to patronize it. I exhibited my 

"Thomas Sully (1783-1872), Englishman by birth, who had come to 
America at an early age, and like Audubon had waged a bitter struggle 
before success was achieved, became one of the first portrait painters of the 
early American School. 

In 1831 Sully wrote to Audubon that his success in England and 
France had charmed all of his friends in America, that it was like a 
personal triumph to them, and that it would soon silence his few remain- 
ing enemies; "Be true to yourself, Audubon," he added, "and never doubt 
of success." It has been said that when Audubon first came to Philadel- 
phia in 1824 he applied to Sully for instruction, saying that he wished 
to become a portrait painter (see Dunlap, op. cit.); again that he was 
ready to sell his drawings to the highest bidder; but the records of his 
journals from 1820 onward are sufficiently consistent to show what his 
purpose really was. 


drawings for a week, but found the show did not pay, 
and so determined to remove myself." Audubon re- 
mained in Philadelphia until August, and while in doubt 
as to what step he should take next, he was cheered by 
a visit to "Mill Grove," made in the carriage of his 
Quaker friend, Reuben Haines. To quote his journal: 

As we entered the avenue, which led to the farm, every 
step brought to my mind the memory of past years, 
and I was bewildered by the recollections until we reached the 
door of the house, which had once been the residence of my 
father as well as of myself. The cordial welcome of Mr. Wether- 
ill, the owner, was extremely agreeable. After resting a few 
moments, I abruptly took my hat and ran wildly to the woods, 
to the grotto where I first heard from my wife that she was 
not indifferent to me. It had been torn down, and some stones 
carted away; but raising my eyes towards heaven, I repeated 
the promise we had mutually made. We dined at Mill Grove, 
and as I entered the parlor I stood motionless for a moment 
on the spot where my wife and myself were forever joined. 

In this dramatic rehearsal the naturalist clearly im- 
plies that he was married in the parlor of his own home, 
but his excellent wife, who was surely in this instance 
the better authority, explicitly states that their marriage 
took place in her father's house at "Fatland Ford." 
Since Audubon was in the habit of sending extracts 
from his journal to his family, it is clear that errors 
of this sort were the simple result of an impulsive tem- 
perament; the moment his imagination pictured his 
wedding as having taken place in his old abode, down 
went the jotting in the journal, which was written at 
odd moments anywhere, often at late hours, and with 
no care in revision or thought of future publication. 

On August 1, 1824, Audubon recorded in his diary 


that he had left Philadelphia for New York on the day 
before, "in good health, free from debt, and free from 
anxiety about the future." Sully had given him glow- 
ing letters of introduction to Gilbert Stuart, Washing- 
ton Allston and Colonel Trumbull, but then as now mid- 
summer was not a propitious time to find city people 
at home, and he began to consider the advisability of 
visiting both Albany and Boston. Alternately elated 
or depressed by the prospects of the day or the hour, 
Audubon wrote on August 4 that he had called with a 
letter of introduction on Dr. Mitchell, who had given 
him "a kind letter to his friend Dr. Barnes." This hur- 
riedly penciled note from the Nestor of American sci- 
ence of that day has been carefully preserved, and reads 
as follows : 12 

Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell to Dr. Barnes 

Mr. A. who brings strong testimonial of excellence from 
our friends in Pha is now sitting with me — I have been de- 
lighted and instructed by a Display of his Port Folio contain- 
ing Drawings Done from Life of North American Birds and 
illustrating the Connect, of ornithology with Botany, he has 
Superior attainments & skill in the natural sciences which he 
has cultivated for more than 20 y. 

he wishes to show his Elegant performances to the Mem- 
bers of the Lyceum and to be made a Member of that Society — 
it is his intention to Leave this City for Boston on Sunday 
morning. Meanwhile I recommend him to your good offices. 

Yours Truly as ever 

Sam, L. Mitchell, 
Aug t 4 t 1824 

12 For the favor of examining a collection of interesting autograph 
letters written to Audubon in Europe and America, some of which are 
here reproduced, I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. Henry R. Howland, 
secretary of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences. This note was written 
on a narrow strip of manila-colored drawing paper. 

i^ (PL t ,'j »v*w t A u ^^ *^HL 

$ /V£fc*-W*vS<, <2<*VI*, C" i *-y>v °&~ifa 

w ? . **■ — ^-<* 


From the Howland MSS. 



Dr. Mitchell, who was the father and first president 
of the Lyceum of Natural History, had been a friend 
of young Audubon when he was clerking in New York 
in 1807. 13 His recommendation was accepted, and the 
naturalist was enrolled on the Lyceum's list of mem- 
bers; to justify his election, two papers, representing 
his first contribution to ornithology, were presented to 
the Society, and appeared in its Annals of that year. 14 
Audubon visited the Lyceum with Dr. DeKay and ex- 
hibited his drawings, but said that he felt awkward and 
uncomfortable. On August 3 he called on John Van- 
derlyn, the artist, examined his pictures, and "saw the 
medal given him by Napoleon, but was not impressed 
with the idea that he was a great painter." Upon 
meeting Vanderlyn again a little later, he was asked to 
sit for a portrait of Andrew Jackson; his journal entry 
regarding the incident was as follows: 15 

August 10. My spirits low, and I long for the woods again ; 
but the prospect of becoming better known prompts me to 
remain another day. Met the artist Vanderlyn, who asked me 
to give him a sitting for a portrait of General Jackson, since 
my figure considerably resembled that of the General, more than 
any he had ever seen. I likewise sketched my landlady and 
child, and filled my time. 

The context shows that the sitting was given, and 
as Mr. Stanley C. Arthur remarks, Vanderlyn's por- 
trait, which now hangs in the City Hall in New York, 
shows "Old Hickory" from the shoulders up, but from 
the shoulders down it is John James Audubon. 

On the 14th Audubon wrote cheerfully to Sully: 

13 See Chapter XI. 

14 See Bibliography, Nos. 15 and 16. 

"See Lucy Audubon, ed., Life of John James Audubon, the Naturalist 
(Bibl. No. 73), p. 107. 


Audubon to Thomas Sully 

My reception in New York has surpassed my hopes. I 
have been most kindly [received], and had I seen Col. Trumball, 
I would have found him the gentleman you represented, but his 
absence at Saratoga Springs has deprived me of that pleas- 

New York is now an immense city. Strangers are received 
here with less reserve generally than at Philadelphia. I found 
the Academy well supplied with paintings, and sculptures of the 
Greek masters. The steam boats of the Sweet Ohio, with all 
their swiftness of motion and beautiful forms, do not interest 
the eye like those that are here tossing over the foaming bil- 
lows with the grace of the wild swan. Were I a painter — ah 

could I, like , carry in my mind's eye all my mind feels 

when looking at the Battery at the moon's tender reflections on 
the farthest sails, forcing the vessel they move with the very 
wind's heart, — express as he does the quick moving tar hauling 
in a reef at the yard's end, — and make on the canvas a noble 
commander speak, as you have done ; then, my dear friend, I 
could show you New York's harbor and all its beauties. . . . 

I cannot part with that Fair City [Philadelphia] this soon; 
I cannot help thanking Fairman, Peale, Neagle, Le Sueur, and 
many others besides Mc Murty for their attentions to me. 
Should }'Ou see honest Quaker Haines, beg him to believe me 
his friend ; should you see Mr. Ord, tell him I never was his 
enemy. Think of me some time, and accept the truest best 
wishes of 

John J. Audubon. 

I leave for Boston tomorrow. Should you please to write 
to me, direct to Care of Messrs. Anshutz & Co, Pittsburgh, 
where I shall be in about 40 days. 

The very next day Audubon changed his plans and 
sailed up the Hudson to Albany, where he hoped to meet 
De Witt Clinton, then at the height of his fame, who in 
the course of his great undertakings had found time to 


write letters on the natural history and antiquities of his 
State, and Dr. Beck, the botanist. Failing to find either 
at home, Audubon was compelled by the depleted state 
of his pocketbook to give up his plan of visiting Boston, 
and being determined to see Niagara Falls, he took pas- 
sage on a canal boat to Buffalo instead. The Falls 
were reached on the 24th of August, and it was then, on 
recording his name at an hotel, that Audubon wrote un- 
derneath: "Who, like Wilson, will ramble, but never, 
like that great man, die under the lash of a book- 
seller." 16 Upon his first view of the Falls he was satis- 
fied that Niagara never had been and never could be 
painted. He wanted to cross the bridge at Goat Island 
but was deterred by the necessity of economy. Visitors 
it seems, had already learned to venture under a small 
section of the American Falls, and Audubon said that 
while looking through the falling sheet of water, "at 
their feet thousands of eels were lying side by side, trying 
vainly to ascend the torrent." After strolling through 
the village to find some bread and milk, the naturalist 
recorded that he ate a good dinner for twelve cents, and 
that he went; to bed "thinking of Franklin eating his 
roll in the streets of Philadelphia, of Goldsmith travel- 
ing by the aid of his musical powers, and of other great 
men who had worked their way through hardships and 
difficulties to fame, and fell asleep, hoping, by perse- 
vering industry, to make a name for himself among his 

The schooner from Buffalo to Erie, Pennsylvania, 
on which Audubon had taken deck passage, as he was 
unable to afford a berth in the cabin, was caught in a 
violent gale on the way and was obliged to anchor in 
the harbor of Presque Isle. "It was on the 29th of Au- 

16 See Vol. I, p. 219. 


gust, 1824," his diary reads, "and never shall I forget 
that morning." Captain Judd, of the United States 
Navy, had sent a gig with six men to its relief, and 
"my drawings," he continues, "were put into the boat 
with the greatest care. We shifted into it, and seated 
ourselves according to direction. Our brave fellows 
pulled hard, and every moment brought us nearer the 
American shore; I leaped upon it with elated heart. 
My drawings were safely landed, and for anything else 
I cared little at the moment." 

At this point Audubon set out with a fellow traveler, 
who was also an artist, for Meadville, Pennsylvania. 
The earliest version of his journal 17 which gives an 
account of this experience reads as follows: 

On the shore of upper Canada, my money was stolen. The 
thief, perhaps, imagined it was of little importance to a natural- 
ist. To repine at what could not be helped would have been 
unmanly. I felt satisfied Providence had relief in store. Seven 
dollars and a half were left to us, two persons, 1500 miles from 
home, at the entrance of Presque — Isle Harbor. 

Five dollars was paid to their driver, and when they 
reached Meadville, and entered J. E. Smith's "Travel- 
er's Rest," they had but one hundred and fifty cents be- 
tween them. No time was to be lost, and Audubon at 
once started out with his portfolio and his artist friend 
to look for work : 

I walked up the Main Street, looking for heads, till I saw 
a Hollander gentleman in a store, who looked as if he might 
want a sketch. I begged him to allow me to sit down. This 
granted, I remained perfectly silent till he very soon asked: 
"What is in that portfolio"? This sounded well; I opened it. 

"Probably first published in a newspaper, and reprinted in pamphlet 
form, dated "April 9, 1846"; see Bibliography, No. 42. 


He complimented me on my drawings of birds and flowers. 
Showing him a portrait of my Best Friend, I asked him if he 
would like one of himself. He said "Yes, and I will exert my- 
self to gain as many more customers as I can." 

According to a story current at Meadville long after 
the event Audubon made the acquaintance of Mr. Bene- 
dict, a merchant, lately come from New Haven, whose 
attractive daughter, named Jennett, 18 was then one and 
twenty ; his family lived at the village tavern, called the 
"Torbett House," in which Mr. Augustus Colson had 
a store. It was Mr. Colson, to whom Audubon probably 
refers, who responded generously to his appeal for work, 
and called in a number of his young friends as possible 
patrons. Among them was Miss Jennett Benedict, and 
the naturalist, attracted by her agreeable manners and 
pleasing appearance, asked permission to make a por- 
trait-sketch, saying that he would pay for the privilege 
by presenting her with a copy. This was evidently good 
business enterprise, for, according to the story, a grain 
bin in the Colson store was soon converted into a studio, 
and Audubon was rewarded by a number of sitters. 
Here is his account from the record just quoted: 

Next day I entered the artist's room, by crazy steps of the 
store-garret ; four windows faced each other at right angles ; in 
a corner was a cat nursing, among rags for a paper-mill ; hogs- 

18 Miss Jennett Benedict in 1836 became Mrs. Butts; the crayon por- 
trait which Audubon made at this time was carefully treasured by her 
daughter, the late Mrs. Frederick A. Sterling, of Cleveland, Ohio, to whose 
kindness I am indebted for the privilege of reproducing it. This original 
drawing, which is presumably a fair specimen of Audubon's itinerant 
portraiture, was made on a sheet of buff, water-marked paper, 14% by 
10y 2 inches in dimensions; it was outlined in pencil, and carefully finished 
in crayon-point; its legend "J. J. Audubon-1824," was inserted in pencil, 
in a very fine hand at the lower margin of the sketch. The Colson 
store was at the corner of Water Street and south of Cherry Alley. For 
an account of this incident I am indebted to Mrs. Sterling, and to an 
article in the Tribune Republican, of Meadville, for February 7, 1907. 



































































i — i 



1 — 































< >-l 
























> En 







B S 

H En 

I s 



heads of oats, Dutch toys on the floor, a large drum, a bassoon, 
fur caps along the walls, a hammock and rolls of leather. 
Closing the extra windows with blankets, I procured a painter's 

A young man sat to try my skill ; his phiz was approved ; 
then the merchant; the room became crowded. In the evening 
I joined him in music on the flute and violin. My fellow travel- 
ler also had made two sketches. We wrote a page or two in 
our journals, and went to rest. 

The next day was spent as yesterday. Our pockets re- 
plenished, we walked to Pittsburgh in two days. 

A month was spent at Pittsburgh, where Audubon 
searched the country for birds and continued his draw- 
ings. While there he made the acquaintance of the 
Reverend John Henry Hopkins, a man of superb ap- 
pearance and rare conversational and oratorical powers, 
later known as the learned and versatile first Episcopal 
Bishop of Vermont. Audubon attended some of the 
ministrations of this remarkable man, through whose 
influence, he said, "I was brought to think, more than 
I usually did, of religious matters ; but I never think of 
churches without feeling sick at heart at the sham and 
show of some of their professors. To repay evil with 
kindness is the religion that I was taught to practice, 
and this will forever be my rule." 

In the autumn of 1824 Audubon planned another 
visit to the Great Lakes in search of new birds, and 
tried to induce his friend, Mr. Edward Harris, to ac- 
company him. While wandering in the forests along 
those lakes he thought out the plan which was finally 
followed in the publication of his Birds of A merica : 

Chance, and chance alone, had divided my drawings into 
three different classes, depending upon the magnitude of the 
objects to be represented; and, although I did not at that time 


possess all the specimens necessary, I arranged them as well as 
I could into parcels of five plates — I improved the whole as 
much as was in my power; and as I daily retired farther from 
the haunts of man, determined to leave nothing undone, which 
my labor, my time, or my purse could accomplish. 19 

Audubon's journal kept on the lakes has been lost, 
but that journey was fresh in mind when he wrote the 
following letter to Edward Harris. 20 

Audubon to Edward Harris 

Beechwoods. Near Bayou Sara, La. 
Jany. 31 1825. 

Surely I have not dismerited your esteem; when on the 
Lakes, both Ontario and Champlain, I wrote to you — again 
from Pittsburgh, all without any answer, and I am sorry to 
say that I have been either abandoned or forgotten by all those 
other persons who had promised to keep up a correspondence 
with me. . . . 

The country I visited was new, in great measure, to me. I 
have been delighted with the tour, but will forever regret that 
your sister's indisposition could not allow you time to augment 
my pleasure by your company. 

[Audubon offers to send his friend shrubs and fruits from 
the South, and concludes;] In fact, my dear Mr. Harris, I am 
yet the same man you knew at the corner of 5th, and Minor 
Streets [in Philadelphia], and will continue forever the same. 

After his tour of the Lakes Audubon returned to 
Pittsburgh, and on October 24, 1824, started down the 
Ohio in a skiff, intending to descend to the Mississippi 
and thence reach his family in Louisiana. Bad weather 
and lack of funds interfered with this plan, and ere long 
he was once more stranded in Cincinnati, where he was 

19 Ornithological Biography, vol. i, p. xi. 

20 The Jeanes MSS.; see Note, Vol. I, p. 180. 


beset by claimants for payment upon articles ordered 
for the Western Museum five years before. Finding it 
difficult at this time to replenish an empty purse, Audu- 
bon felt that he must borrow fifteen dollars, but could 
not make up his mind how to ask the favor until he had 
several times walked past the house where he had once 
been known. Nevertheless, he succeeded in obtaining 
the necessary funds, took passage on a boat bound for 
Louisville, and slept cheerfully that night on a pile of 
shavings which he managed to scrape together on deck. 
"The spirit of contentment which I now feel," he wrote, 
"is strange; it borders on the sublime; and, enthusiastic 
or lunatic, as some of my relatives will have me, I am 
glad to possess such a spirit"; later he added: "I dis- 
cover that my friends think only of my apparel, and 
those upon whom I have conferred acts of kindness 
prefer to remind me of my errors." 

Louisville was reached on November 20, and a num- 
ber of days were spent in visiting his eldest son, 
Victor, who was then at Shippingport. 21 He finally 
arrived at Bayou Sara in late November, 1824. The 
captain of his vessel, which was bound for New Or- 
leans, put him ashore at midnight, and he was left to 
grope his way to the village on the hill. St. Francis- 
ville, to his dismay, was nearly deserted, a scourge of 
yellow fever having driven most of its inhabitants to 
the pine woods. The postmaster, however, was able to 
assure him that his wife and son were well, and Mr. 
Niibling, a friendly German, whom he described as "a 

""Shipping Port," as the village below the rapids or falls of the 
Ohio was then called, was joined to Louisville by the Louisville and Port- 
land Canal, a channel two and one-half miles long, in 1830, two years 
after the city received its charter. The "Louisville" or "Portland" cement, 
a name now applied to the product of a considerable district, was first 
manufactured at Shipping Port, in 1829, for the construction of this 


man of cultivation and taste, and a lover of Natural 
Science," gave him refreshment and a horse. In his 
eagerness to cover the fifteen miles to the Percy house 
as rapidly as possible, he tried to strike a straight course 
through the dark forest, but missed his way, and dawn 
found him on unfamiliar ground ; he then learned from 
a negro that he was two miles beyond the place. When 
he arrived at last "with rent and wasted clothes, and 
uncut hair, and altogether looking like the wandering 
Jew," his wife was busily engaged in teaching her pupils. 
During his absence of nearly fourteen months she had 
prospered greatly, and she was not only ready but eager 
to place her earnings at her husband's disposal. 

When he had finally decided to take his drawings to 
Europe for publication, Audubon set to work to increase 
his capital, and soon had pupils in French, music, and 
drawing, while a dancing class of sixty was organized 
in a neighboring town. His country lads and lassies 
proved rather awkward material, and he broke his bow 
and nearly ruined his violin in his impatience to evoke a 
single graceful step or motion; when, however, he con- 
sented to dance to his own music, he never failed to bring 
down thunders of applause. These efforts were con- 
tinued for over a year, until he had realized a consider- 
able sum. With this money in hand, supplemented by 
what his wife could spare, he determined to seek his for- 
tunes in the Old World. 



Audubon sails from New Orleans — Life at Sea — Liverpool — The Rath- 
bones — Exhibition of drawings an immediate success — Personal appear- 
ance — Painting habits resumed — His pictures and methods — Manchester 
visited — Plans for publication — The Birds of America — Welcome at 
Edinburgh — Lizars engraves the Turkey Cock — In the role of society's 
lion — His exhibition described by a French critic — Honors of science 
and the arts — Contributions to journals excite criticism — Aristocratic 
patrons — Visit to Scott — The Wild Pigeon and the rattlesnake — Letter 
to his wife — Prospectus — Journey to London. 

When Audubon had reached the age of forty-one, 
his fortunes were destined to undergo still further kalei- 
doscopic changes, but the patterns and hue were now 
of a more agreeable character. He had failed repeated- 
ly in business ventures of various kinds; he had failed 
also to find either encouragement or support for his 
ambitious schemes of publishing his drawings in the 
United States. But there was still a chance for success 
in the Old World, and thither he was determined to go 
to try the hazard of fortune in either England or France. 
Accordingly, he left his family at St. Francisville and 
went to New Orleans, where he engaged passage on a 
cotton schooner bound for Liverpool, named the Delos, 
Captain Joseph E. Hatch. With his drawings, a few 
books, and a purse, if not ample, at least sufficient for 
his immediate needs, and fortified with numerous let- 
ters, he finally set sail on the 17th of May, 1826. 

This voyage, like every other which the naturalist 
ever made, was turned to good account; the log book 



or journal kept on this occasion abounds in interesting 
observations upon the life of the sea, particularly on 
the fishes and birds which were encountered in the Gulf. 
The first page of this journal, 1 reproduced with ortho- 
graphic exactness, reads as follows: 

26 April 1826— 

I Left My Beloved Wife Lucy Audubon and My Son John 
Woodhouse on Tuesday afternoon the 26 th - April, bound to 
England, remained at Doct r Pope at S* Francisville untill 
Wednesday 4 o'clock P. M. : in the Steam Boat Red River 
Cap e Kimble — having for Compagnons Mess rs D. Hall & John 
Haliday— reached New Orleans Thursday 27 th at 12— Visit- 
ed Many Vessels for My Passage and concluded to go in the 
Ship Delos of Kennebunk Cap e Joseph Hatch bound to Liv- 
erpool, Loaded with Cotton entirely — 

The Red River Steam Boat left on her return on Sun- 
day and I Wrote by her to Thee My Dearest Friend and for- 
ward 01 Thee 2 Small Boxes of Flowering Plants — 

saw, spoke to & walked with Charles Briggs, much altered 
young man — 

Lived at New Orleans at G. L. Sapinot in Company with 
Coste — 

During My Stay at New Orleans, I saw my old and friend- 
ly acquaintances the familly Pamar ; but the whole time spent 

1 Audubon's 1826 manuscript journal, which I examined through the 
courtesy of Miss Maria R. Audubon in 1914, was written, mostly in pencil, 
in a ruled blank book, of similar size and quality to that used on the 
Ohio River in 1820-21 (see Note, p. 307), and was illustrated with a 
number of pencil sketches, chiefly of fishes. On page 3 was a rough out- 
line sketch of first mate Sam L. Bragdon, of Wells, Maine, reading in 
the booby hatch; to his kindness Audubon paid a written tribute; there 
was also a drawing of a "Balacuda [Barracouta] Fish, June 17, 1826;" 
of a "Shark, 7 ft. long; off Cuba, Jn. 18" (see reproduction); and of a 
"Dolphin; Gulph of Florida, May 28;" other sketches were of a line 
or "thread-winder," a Flying Fish, and outlines of the Cuban coast. 

Audubon presented a sketch of the "Dolphin" to Captain Hatch, whose 
vessel, the Delos, went down on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in 
the summer of 1831, but not until her crew and valuables had been trans- 
ferred to another boat that stood by. (For this note I am indebted to 
Miss Maria R. Audubon.) 




19 POUCES POIDS l lb - 6"Z- QUEUE 

12 PENNES." 

Published by courtesy of Mr. Joseph Y. 

^ j^^r'fll^^^ 

pencil sketch from audubon's journal of his voyage to england 
in 1826: "shark 7 feet long, off cuba, june 18th, 1826." 

Published by courtesy of Miss Maria R. Audubon. 


^'fry'ctZy— -~r-J><^ s+^~~7, ^yt~-Z*? 

«/ X*. — «£ ' er*^& /^~^ frz~.~~ ^T^«^C#9^ 

fr £n~S4~/~- e?-Jz-Xy, **?-?'* ^^rT^ 

^Z w~ -j£ ^«^ ^ '4&„~Jt~£ ~^~^/" J 



Reproduced by courtesy of the Misses Florence and Maria R. Audubon. 



in that City was heavy & dull — a few Gentlemen Call d to see 
My Drawings — I Generally Walked from Morning untill Dusk 
My hands behind me, paying but very partial attention, to all 
I saw — New Orleans to a Man who does not trade in Dollars 
or any other Such Stuffs is a miserable Spot = 

fatigued and discovering that the Ship could not be ready 
for Sea for several days, I ascended the Mississipy again in 
the Red River and once more found Myself with my Wife 
and Child. I arrived at M rs Percy at 3 o'clock in the morn- 
ing, having had a Dark ride through the Magnolia Woods but 
the Moments spent afterwards full repaid me — I remained 2 
days and 3 Nights, was a Wedding — of Miss Virginia Chisholm 
with M r - D. Hall & c - I Left in Company With Lucy M rs 
Percy " house at Sun rise and went to Breakfast at My good 
[friend's, Augustin Bourgeat]. 

The captain and mates of the Delos were friendly, 
and whenever their vessel was becalmed, they would 
let down a boat so that Audubon could procure the 
stormy Petrel and numerous other birds which he was 
anxious to examine in the flesh or depict for his "Orni- 

During his long voyage of sixty-five days our adven- 
turous traveler was alternately elated or depressed by 
hopes or fears for the future, until land was at last 
reached on Friday, July 21, 1826. The appearance of 
Liverpool, said Audubon, "was agreeable, but no sooner 
had I entered it than the smoke became so oppressive to 
my lungs that I could hardly breathe." At the customs 
he was charged two pence on each of his drawings, "as 
they were water-colored," but on his American books 
he had to pay "four pence per pound," a circumstance 
in which he was possibly favored by the following letter 
which he had brought with him from a friend in New 
Orleans : 


Edward H olden to George Rams den 

New Orleans, May 26th., 1826. 
George Ramsden, Esq. 
Dear Sir. 

The present will be handed to you by Mr. J. J. Audubon 
of this city, whom most respectfully I beg to introduce to 

The principal object of Mr. Audubon's visit to England is 
to make arrangements for the publication of an extensive and 
very valuable collection of his drawings in Natural History, 
chiefly if not wholly of American Birds, and he takes them 
with him for that purpose. Can you be of any assistance to 
him by letters to Manchester and London? If you can I have 
no doubt that my introduction of him will insure your best at- 
tention and services. — Mr. Audubon is afraid of having to pay 
heavy duties upon his drawings. He will describe them to you, 
and if in getting them entered Low at the Custom House, or 
if in any other respect you can further his views, I shall consider 
your aid as an obligation conferred upon myself. Pray intro- 
duce him particularly to Mr. Booth, who I am sure will feel 
great interest in being acquainted with him, were it only on ac- 
count of the desire he has always expressed to be of service to 
the new Manchester Institution, to which Mr. Audubon's draw- 
ings would be an invaluable acquisition. 

1 am Dr. Sir Yours truly, 

Edward Holden. 

Among the letters which Audubon carried on this 
occasion, but which apparently he did not deliver, was 
the following, addressed by a friend in New Orleans to 
General Lafayette : 2 

2 Addressed "General Lafayette, 

Paris ou Lagrange." 
Translated from the French original, kindly sent to me by Mr. 
Ruthven Deane. 


Louis P. Caire to General Lafayette 

New Orleans, 15 May, 1826. 
My dear General, 

Monsieur Audubon, after having spent twenty-two years in 
the United States, is returning to Europe in order to publish a 
work to which he has devoted his entire life. This distinguished 
ornithologist, who bears letters from the most eminent citizens 
of the Union, will find, I trust, the encouragement to which 
his talents and his perseverance so fully entitle him, and how- 
ever flattering may be the recommendations which his friends 
are eager to give him, these are yet, my dear General, beneath 
his merits. I have presumed to assure him of your patron- 
age, and in introducing him to you I am convinced that it will 
be agreeable to you both. 

Adieu my General: give my kind regards to all your fam- 
ily, and permit me to embrace you as I love you. 

Louis P. Caire. 

Before Audubon left New Orleans, an old acquain- 
tance, Mr. Vincent Nolte 3 of that city, had also fur- 
nished him with credentials, in which it was stated that 
the naturalist was carrying with him four hundred orig- 
inal drawings, and that his object was "to find a pur- 
chaser or a publisher." "He has a crowd of letters," 
continued Nolte, "from Mr. Clay, De Witt Clinton, and 
others for England, which will do much for him; but 
your introduction to Mr. Roscoe and others will do 
more." This judgment was sound, but the most valu- 
able letter which Audubon carried proved to be that of 
Nolte himself addressed to Richard Rathbone, Esq., of 
Liverpool, for it brought him into immediate friendly 
relations with an influential family of merchants which 
also included William Rathbone, a brother, as well as 
their father, William Rathbone, Senior, whose interest 

3 For an account of Audubon's meeting with Nolte see Chapter XVIII. 


in birds had made him in his younger days an amateur 
collector and student. Seldom has the role of Maecenas 
been played more effectively and with less ostentation 
than by those intelligent men of affairs, to whom Audu- 
bon, with his fine enthusiasm and bold literary plans, 
seemed to embody all the romance of the New World. 
They stood sponsor for his work and worth, and did 
all in their power to make their new discovery known. 
At the home of the senior Rathbone, called "Green- 
bank," three miles out of Liverpool, the naturalist was 
warmly welcomed, and his excellent hostess, Mrs. Wil- 
liam Rathbone, the "Queen bee," as he called her, re- 
ceived from him lessons in drawing and became his first 

At this period Audubon often complained of shy- 
ness felt in meeting strangers, but his "observatory 
nerves," as he said, never gave way. He studied his 
English friends as closely as he had the birds of Amer- 
ica, and the results of his shrewd observations were 
often turned to practical account. That he was as diffi- 
dent as he declared himself to be may be doubted, for 
he seems to have met nearly everyone of prominence 
wherever he went, and a list of his acquaintance at the 
end of his sojourn abroad would read much like a "Blue 
Book" of the British Isles. 

At Liverpool Audubon received much assistance 
also from Edward Roscoe, botanist and writer, Dr. 
Thomas S. Traill 4 and Adam Hodgson, who introduced 

4 Dr. Thomas Stuart Traill, after whom one of our common flycatchers 
was named, was a founder of the Royal Institution at Liverpool, and later 
a professor of medical jurisprudence at Edinburgh. When the keepership 
of the Department of Natural History in the British Museum became 
vacant through the resignation of Dr. Leech in 1822, Dr. Traill supported 
William Swainson for the position; when George J. Children received the 
appointment, he was disinclined to accept defeat, and entered upon a 
crusade against the Museum's trustees in a series of anonymous articles 


him to Lord Stanley. When he came to write his Orni- 
thological Biography, these early friends were all pub- 
licly called by name, and we thus had (though, as it 
afterwards appeared, in name only) the "Rathbone 
Warbler," 5 "Stanley Hawk," "Children's Warbler," 
"Cuvier's Regulus," "Roscoe's Yellow-throat," "Selby's 
Flycatcher," and still possess "Bewick's Wren," 
"Traill's Flycatcher," "Henslow's Bunting," "Mae- 
Gillivray's Finch," and "Harlan's Hawk," to cite a few 
instances of this form of acknowledgment. 

Within barely a week after landing at Liverpool a 
total stranger, Audubon was invited to show his draw- 
ings at the Royal Institution. The exhibition, which 
lasted a month, was a surprising success; 413 persons, 
as he recorded, were admitted on the second day, and it 
netted him one hundred pounds although no charge for 
admission was made during the first week. 

Everyone, said the naturalist, was surprised at his 
appearance, for he wore his hair long, dressed in un- 
fashionable clothes, rose early, worked late, and was 
abstemious in food and drink. Shortly after his arrival, 

contributed to the Edinburgh and Westminster Reviews. Traill's exposure 
of the neglect which the natural-history collections had suffered in the 
custody of the British Museum paved the way to a separate Department 
of Zoology, which in the able hands of John E. Gray, and later in those 
of Sir Richard Owen, led to the present great Museum of Natural History 
at South Kensington. 

6 In dedicating the Sylvia rathbonia Audubon said: "Were I at liberty 
here to express the gratitude which swells my heart, when the remembrance 
of all the unmerited kindness and unlooked-for friendship which I have 
received from the Rathbones of Liverpool comes to my mind, I might pro- 
duce a volume of thanks. But I must content myself with informing you, 
that the small tribute of gratitude which it is alone in my power to pay, 
I now joyfully accord, by naming after them one of those birds, to the 
study of which all my efforts have been directed. I trust that future 
naturalists, regardful of the feelings which have guided me in naming 
this species, will continue to it the name of the Rathbone Warbler." 

"Named after John Stevens Henslow, Professor of Botany in the 
University of Cambridge, whom Audubon had met in 1828, when Charles 
Darwin was still his pupil. 


his sister-in-law, Mrs. Alexander Gordon, urged him 
to have his hair cut and to buy a fashionable coat, but 
he could not then bear to sacrifice his ambrosial locks, 
which continued to wave over his shoulders until the 
following March. If we can accept Sir Walter Besant's 
characterization of the period, the "long-haired Achaean" 
was no stranger to the streets of London as late as 1837: 
"brave is the exhibition of flowing locks; they flow over 
the ears and over the coat-collars; you can smell the 
bear's grease across the street; and if these amaranthine 
locks were to be raised you would see the shiny coating 
of bear's grease upon the velvet collar below." 

Audubon had not been in England three weeks 
before he resumed his drawing and painting habits, at 
first in order to repay his friends for their kindness, 
and later as a means of support; at times he would 
devote every spare moment to this work, and he was 
then able to paint fourteen hours at a stretch without 
fatigue. On October 2 he recorded that he had made in 
less than twenty minutes a diminutive sketch of the 
Turkey Cock from his large twenty-three hour picture. 
This was for Mrs. William Rathbone, Senior, who later 
presented it to him in the form of a handsome gold- 
mounted seal, inscribed with his favorite motto, "Amer- 
ica, my countrv." 7 The facility which Audubon dis- 

' v ml %/ 

played in producing his pictures of animal life — Amer- 
ican wild turkeys, trapped otters, fighting cats, English 
game pieces, and the like, in a style both novel and indi- 
vidual, added much to his immediate popularity in Eng- 

7 This seal, the design of which has since been adapted for a book- 
plate, was long in use, and though at one time lost, is still in possession 
of the family. A copy of the large original, which was to serve as his 
first plate, was presented to the Royal Institution of Liverpool as an 
acknowledgment of its hospitality, for it had refused remuneration in any 
other form. 


land, as it later did to his purse. His painting devices 
are thus referred to in a journal entry for January, 

No one, I think, paints in my method ; I, who have never 
studied but by piece-meal, form my pictures according to my 
ways of study. For instance, I am now working on a Fox ; I 
take one neatly killed, put him up with wires and when satisfied 
with the truth of the position, I take my palette and work as 
rapidly as possible ; the same with my birds ; if practicable I 
finish the bird at one sitting, — often, it is true, of fourteen 
hours, — so that I think they are correct, both in detail and 

When he was painting pheasants and needed a white 
one as "a keystone of light" to his picture, a nobleman 
sent word that he would be given "leave to see the pic- 
tures" in his hall, but this Audubon characteristically 
refused, being determined to pay no such visits without 

On the 10th of September, 1826, Audubon left Liv- 
erpool, in a hopeful mood, for Manchester, with the in- 
tention of visiting the chief cities of England and Scot- 
land. He was fortified with a bundle of letters to a 
long list of distinguished people, including Baron von 
Humboldt, General Lafayette, Sir Walter Scott, Sir 
Humphry Davy and Sir Thomas Lawrence. His first 
step proved a disappointment, and when he finally left 
the City of Spindles six weeks later, he found himself 
poorer than when he had entered it. At Manchester, 
however, he added to his list of interested friends and 
possible patrons, and acting upon their suggestion, 
opened a subscription book for the publication of his 
long meditated work, to be called The Birds of America. 
The Rathbones, as well as other friends whose advice 


he esteemed, tried to dissuade him from the plan of 
publishing his drawings in their full size, which was 
that of life, on account of the great expense involved 
and the enormous bulk such a work would assume; but 
he could not bring himself to give up the idea, in which 
he received the support of the London bookseller, Mr. 
Bohn, who, after seeing Audubon's drawings reversed 
his opinion, saying that they must be brought out in 
their full size, and that they would certainly pay. 

After coming to England Audubon often thought 
of the shifting scenes and strange contrasts his life had 
brought. One day he felt the pinch of poverty, but 
on the next fared sumptuously at the tables of the rich ; 
now a rambler in the wilds of America, glad to accept 
the hospitality of the humblest prairie squatter, now the 
guest of some metropolitan aristocrat. "The squatter," 
he said, when writing in England, "is rough, true, and 
hospitable; my friends here polished, true, and gener- 
ous. Both give freely, and he who during the tough 
storms of life can be in such spots may well say that 
he has tasted happiness." 

While at Manchester Audubon was driven to the 
town of Bakewell, "the spot," he wrote in deference to 
his wife, "which has been honored with thy ancestor's 
name." Shortly after, on October 23, he started by 
stage for Edinburgh, and the distance of 212 miles was 
covered in three days; the fare was £5 5s. 5d., which he 
regarded as exorbitant, but he complained not so much 
of the charge as of the beggarly manner of the drivers, 
who never hesitated to open the door of their coach 
and ask for a shilling at the slightest provocation. 

At Edinburgh Audubon was welcomed so warmly 
that he began to feel that ultimate success was at last 
within his reach. Professor Robert Jameson of the 


University did much to make his work known, and in- 
vited him to cooperate in an enterprise upon which he 
was then engaged ; 8 this was pronounced by Dr. Knox 
of the Medical School to be a "job book," but whatever 
its merits may have been, Audubon decided after due 
reflection to stand on his own feet. 

Not long after reaching the Scottish capital, Audu- 
bon made the acquaintance of Mr. W. Home Lizars, 
styled "a Mr. Lizard" by a snapshot biographer of a 
later day, a well known, expert engraver and painter, 
who engaged in various publishing enterprises. When 
Audubon had held up a few of his drawings for his 
inspection, Lizars rose, exclaiming: "My God! I never 
saw anything like this before." The picture of the 
Mockingbirds attacked by a rattlesnake particularly 
struck his fancy, but when he came to the drawing of 
the Great-footed Hawks, "with bloody rags at their 
beaks' ends, and cruel delight in their daring eyes," 
Lizars declared that he would both engrave and publish 
it. "Mr. Audubon," said he, "the people here don't 
know who you are at all, but depend upon it, they shall 
know." Lizars eventually agreed to engrave and bring 
out the first specimen number of The Birds of America, 
and about the 10th of November made a beginning with 
the first plate. On November 28, 1826, he handed Au- 
dubon a first proof of the Wild Turkey Cock, a subject 
chosen to justify the great size of the work, which was 
to be in double elephant folio, and which in point of 
size is perhaps to this day the largest extended publica^ 
tion in existence. 9 This and the second plate, which 
represented the Yellow-billed Cuckoo 10 in the act of 

8 See Note, Vol. I, p. 375. 

9 The plates as issued, untrimmed, measured 39y 3 by 29y 2 inches; see 
Bibliography, No. 1. 

ao See Note, Vol. II, p. 197. Incidentally it may be noticed that the "tiger 


'■£/. ?'/£€?/■. ME1EAC3SI5 GALLOPAYO. Linn. 

Engraved by \V.HIi2ars Idm? 
Retouched by R.HavellJun? 

Brawi.h-omnatureWJJAudubonF.R.s.F.i.s <j¥m6ru:a>t, C&/1&. .Sfueaia/ -macrMnerrmt. 


seizing a tiger swallowtail butterfly on a branch of the 
paw-paw tree, were finished by December 10; the first 
number of five plates was ready some weeks later. Li- 
zars engraved at Edinburgh the first ten of Audubon's 
plates, but most of these were subsequently retouched, 
colored and reissued by his successor in London, as will 
presently appear. 

When Audubon's pictures were exhibited at the 
Royal Institution of Edinburgh, their success was imme- 
diate, and like the appearance of a new Waverley novel, 
they became the talk of the town ; the American woods- 
man had provided a new thrill for the leaders of fash- 
ion, as well as for the literati and the scientific men. 
The "noblest Roman of them all," Sir Walter Scott, 
refused to attend, but after having met the naturalist 
he wrote this in his journal: "I wish I had gone to see 
his drawings ; but I had heard so much about them that 
I resolved not to see them — 'a crazy way of mine, your 
honor.' " 

Philarete-Chasles, a well known French critic of the 
period, has left the following record " of the effect 
which this exhibition made on his impressionable mind: 

We have admired in the rooms of the Royal Society of 
Edinburgh the public exhibition of [Audubon's] original water- 
color drawings. A magic power transported us into the for- 
ests which for so many years this man of genius has trod. 

swallowtail" in this plate was possibly added for effect, for few of our 
birds, which habitually hunt moths, ever prey upon butterflies. I have 
seen the cabbage butterfly and a few of the smaller kinds brought to 
the nests of the Chebec and Wood Pewee but never a "monarch" or 
"papilio"; yet some affirm that the Kingbird will attack the "monarch." 

"Translated from Etudes sur la Litterature et les Moeurs des Anglo- 
Americains au XIXe siecJe, "Audubon," pp. 66-106 (Paris, 1851). 
Philarete-Chasles, who wrote chiefly on American, English and European 
authors and books, has seventy volumes credited to him in the National 
Library at Paris. 


Learned and ignorant alike were astonished at the spectacle, 
which we will not attempt to reproduce. 

Imagine a landscape wholly American, trees, flowers, grass, 
even the tints of the sky and the waters, quickened with a life 
that is real, peculiar, trans-Atlantic. On twigs, branches, bits 
of shore, copied by the brush with the strictest fidelity, sport 
the feathered races of the New World, in the size of life, each 
in its particular attitude, its individuality and peculiarities. 
Their plumages sparkle with nature's own tints ; you see them 
in motion or at rest, in their plays and their combats, in their 
anger fits and their caresses, singing, running, asleep, just 
awakened, beating the air, skimming the waves, or rending one 
another in their battles. It is a real and palpable vision of the 
New World, with its atmosphere, its imposing vegetation, and 
its tribes which know not the yoke of man. The sun shines 
athwart the clearing in the woods ; the swan floats suspended 
between a cloudless sky and a glittering wave ; strange and 
majestic figures keep pace with the sun, which gleams from the 
mica sown broadcast on the shores of the Atlantic ; and this 
realization of an entire hemisphere, this picture of a nature so 
lusty and strong, is due to the brush of a single man ; such an 
unheard of triumph of patience and genius ! — the resultant 
rather of a thousand triumphs won in the face of innumerable 
obstacles !" 

Another French writer 12 remarked that Audubon 
produced the same sensation among the savants of Eng- 
land that Franklin had made at the close of the eight- 
eenth century among the politicians of the Old World; 
his works, he added, should be translated into his native 
tongue, and produced in a form which would enable 
them to reach the library of every naturalist in France. 
One after another the scientific, literary, and arts so- 

^' ' ■ — -' '■■— — ■ • " .. — .. 

13 P. A. Cap, in L' Illustration for 1851. Cap's hint was taken by 
Eugene Bazin, who translated copious selections from the Ornithological 
Biography, which were published in two volumes in Paris in 1857 (see 
Bibliography, No. 38). 


cieties of the modem Athens elected Audubon to honor- 
ary membership ; Combe, the phrenologist and author of 
The Constitution of Man, examined the naturalist's head 
and modeled it in plaster, for of course it proved to be a 
perfect exemplification of his system ; Syme, the artist, 
did his portrait for Lizars to engrave. Meanwhile the 
press was giving such flattering accounts of the man 
and his work that Audubon confessed that he was quite 
ashamed to walk the street. At the annual banquet of 
the Royal Institution, held at the Waterloo Hotel and 
presided over by Lord Elgin, Audubon was toasted, 
and it required all his resolution to rise and, for the 
first time in his life, address a large assembly ; this, how- 
ever, he managed to do in the following words: "Gen- 
tlemen ; my command of words in which to reply to your 
kindness is almost as limited as that of the birds hanging 
on the walls of your Institution. I am truly obliged for 
your favors. Permit me to say; may God bless you 
all, and may this society prosper." On the 10th of De- 
cember he wrote: "My situation in Edinburgh borders 
on the miraculous," and he felt that his reception in that 
city was a good augury for the future. But the life 
that he was compelled to lead was extremely fatiguing, 
and he often longed to return to his family and to his 
favorite magnolia woods in Louisiana. "I go to dine," 
he wrote, "at six, seven, or even eight o'clock in the eve- 
ning, and it is often one or two when the party breaks 
up; then painting all day, with my correspondence, 
which increases daily, makes my head feel like an im- 
mense hornet's nest, and my body wearied beyond all 
calculation; yet it has to be done; those who have my 
best interests at heart tell me I must not refuse a single 
invitation." But notwithstanding the tax which society 
always levies upon the lion's strength, he wrote almost 


daily in his journal or diary, 13 and its pages, from which 
we have been quoting, became a mirror of all that he 
saw, heard, or did. Audubon was generous with his 
time, as with everything else, and would never hesitate 
to lay aside his own work for the sake of a friend who 
was eager to acquire his method of drawing. But when 
his entertainment commenced with an invitation to 
breakfast, he began to be alarmed at the large share of 
his working hours which had to be surrendered to his 
friends. "I seem, in a measure," he said, "to have gone 
back to my early days of society and fine dressing, silk 
stockings and pumps, and all the finery with which I 
made a popinjay of myself in my youth ... It is Mr. 
Audubon here, and Mr. Audubon there, and I can only 
hope they will not make a conceited fool of Mr. Audu- 
bon at last." 

In response to urgent appeals he began at this time 
to contribute to the scientific journals of the Scottish 
capital, a step which only served to remind him that 
the rose was more prolific in thorns than flowers. Dr. 
Brewster, however, in his Journal of Science, and John 
Wilson in Blackwoods, sang pagans in his praise, and 
there is no doubt that "Christopher North," so like and 
yet so unlike the American woodsman, did much to 
smooth his path in his own country as well as in Europe. 
Though keenly feeling the need of literary advice in 
those early contributions, Audubon was quite shocked 
at the alterations which Dr. Brewster had made in one 
of these articles, for though the editor had "greatly im- 
proved the style," he had quite "destroyed the matter." 
On December 21, 1826, Audubon wrote to Thomas 
Sully that he would send him a copy of the first number 
of his Birds, with the request that he forward it in his 

13 See Maria R. Audubon, Audubon and his Journals (Bibl. No. 86). 


name "to that Institution which thought me unworthy 
to be a member . . . There is no malice in my heart," 
he continued, "and I wish no return or acknowledgment 
from them. I am now determined never to be a mem- 
ber of that Philadelphia Society." Let it be noted, 
however, that Audubon was elected to membership in 
the American Philosophical Society, when their recog- 
nition could no longer be withheld and when mutual 
animosities had died down. Three days later he re- 
corded that all of his drawings had been taken from 
the walls of the Royal Institution, where they had been 
on exhibition a month, and that he was intending to 
present to the Society his large canvas of the Wild Tur- 
keys, for which Galley, the picture dealer, had offered 
him a hundred guineas on the previous day. 14 

Among Audubon's early patrons were Lord and 
Lady Morton, and more than once he was invited to 
visit them in their beautiful country seat of "Dalma- 
hoy," where a large, square, half-Gothic building, 
crowned with turrets and adorned with all the signs 
of heraldry, overlooked a beautiful landscape to Edin- 
burgh, marked by its famous castle, seen in miniature 
on the horizon, eight miles away. Being somewhat ap- 
prehensive of meeting the former Chamberlain to the 
late Queen Charlotte, Audubon had imagined the Earl 

14 Audubon's copy of this oil painting remained in the possession of 
his family until a few years ago, when it was sold for a much greater 
amount. It now adorns the beautiful ornithological museum of Mr. John 
E. Thayer, at South Lancaster, Massachusetts; it represents a cock and hen 
turkey in life size, adapted from the subjects of his two most famous 
plates, and is in an admirable state of preservation. Mr. Thayer's collec- 
tion also embraces Audubon's large canvas of the Black Cocks, from the 
Edward Harris estate, a charming study of the Hen Turkey, with land- 
scape setting, and, also in oils, several smaller panels of Flickers and 
Passenger Pigeons, which, if not the work of the naturalist, are copies after 
his originals, and possibly made by Joseph B. Kidd. (See Vol. I, p. 446; and 
for a notice of Mr. Thayer's other Audubonian drawings, Vol. II, p. 227, and 
Appendix II.) 


to be "a man of great physical strength and size"; in- 
stead, however, he saw 

a small, slender man, tottering on his feet, weaker than a 
newly hatched partridge ; he welcomed me with tears in his 
eyes, held one of my hands, and attempted speaking, which was 
difficult to him, the Countess meanwhile rubbing his other hand. 
I saw at a glance the situation, and begged he would be seated 
. . . and I took a seat on a sofa that I thought would swallow 
me up, so much down swelled around me. It was a vast room, 
at least sixty feet long, and wide in proportion, let me say 
thirty feet, all hung with immense paintings on a rich purple 
ground ; all was purple about me. The large tables were cov- 
ered with books, instruments, drawing apparatus, a telescope, 
with hundreds of ornaments. 

After luncheon Audubon's "Book of Nature" was pro- 
duced, and his drawings spread out and admired. Next 
day the Countess, who was "a woman of superior intel- 
lect and conversation," was given "a most unnecessary 
lesson" in drawing, for, said the naturalist, "she drew 
much better than I did; but I taught her to rub with 
cork, and prepare for water-color." Before he left the 
Countess wrote her name in his subscription book, and 
arranged that he should return and resume his instruc- 

One of Audubon's early friends at Edinburgh was 
Captain Basil Hall, 15 traveler and writer, who was then 
about to start on a journey through the United States; 
he told the naturalist that he was a midshipman on board 
the Leander "when Pierce was killed off New York," 
at the time of Audubon's return with Rozier to America 
in 1806, when Captain Sammis, upon seeing the British 

15 Basil Hall (1788-1844), noted for his travels in China, Korea, and 
on the coasts of Chili, Peru and Mexico, visited the United States in 1827- 
28; his Travels in North America appeared in 1829. 


frigate, "wore around Long Island Sound, and reached 
New York by Hell Gate." It was at Captain Hall's 
home that Audubon met Francis Jeffrey. The indom- 
itable critic and reviewer was described as "a small (not 
to say tiny) man," who entered the room "with a woman 
under one arm, and a hat under the other." "His looks 
were shrewd," said the naturalist, his eyes "almost cun- 
ning" and though he talked much, he appeared unsym- 
pathetic. Their meeting was productive of no friendly 
feelings on either side. 

Three months after reaching Edinburgh, the long 
awaited opportunity of meeting the greatest literary 
figure of the day came to Audubon unexpectedly, for 
he did not wish to be introduced in a crowd. Under 
date of January 22, 1827, he wrote that Captain Hall 
came to his rooms and said: "Put on your coat, and 
come with me to Sir Walter Scott: he wishes to see you 
now." "In a moment," said Audubon, "I was ready. 
. . . My heart trembled ; I longed for the meeting, yet 
wished it over." When they were ushered into Sir 
Walter's study, the great Scot came forward, and 
warmly pressing the hand of his visitor, said he was 
glad to have the honor of meeting him. Audubon's 
record of the meeting continues: 

His long, loose, silvery locks struck me; he looked like 
Franklin at his best. He also reminded me of Benjamin West; 
he had the great benevolence of William Roscoe about him, and 
a kindness most prepossessing. I could not forbear looking at 
him ; my eyes feasted on his countenance. I watched his move- 
ments as I would those of a celestial being; his long, heavy, 
white eyebrows struck me forcibly- His little room was tidy, 
"chough it partook a good deal of the character of a laboratory. 
He was wrapped in a quilted morning-gown of light purple 
silk ; he had been at work writing on the "Life of Napoleon." 


He writes close lines, rather curved as they go from left to 
right, and puts an immense deal on very little paper. ... I 
talked little, but, believe me, I listened and observed. 

Two days later Audubon paid Scott a second visit, this 
time with his portfolio, but little was recorded of this 
interview other than that it was more agreeable than 
the first, and that he greatly admired the accomplished 
Miss Scott, to whom he later sent as a gift the first 
number of his plates. Audubon's drawings were ex- 
hibited at a meeting of the Royal Society over which 
Sir Walter presided, and Scott was also in attendance 
at the Royal Institution when Audubon's large paint- 
ing of the Black Cocks was shown. "We talked much" 
on this occasion, said the naturalist, "and I would have 
gladly joined him in a glass of wine, but my foolish 
habits prevented me." This restriction on wine was 
soon removed, as was that on whisky, whether of the 
Scotch or Kentucky brand, and during his later life in 
America Audubon was never a teetotaler by any means. 
While at the Exhibition Sir Walter pointed to Land- 
seer's picture of the dying stag, saying, "many such 
scenes, Mr. Audubon, have I witnessed in my younger 
days." Audubon was doubtless too polite to express an 
opinion of that popular artist, though of that very pic- 
ture he had written in his journal three days before that 
there was no nature in it, and that he considered it a 
farce; "the stag," he said, "had his tongue out, and his 
mouth shut! The principal dog, a greyhound, held the 
deer by one ear, just as if a loving friend; the young 
hunter had laced the deer by one horn very prettily, 
and in the attitude of a ballet-dancer was about to cast 
the noose over the head of the animal." 

Scott and Audubon were kindred spirits in their love 


of sport, of wild and untameable nature, as well as of 
man in his Homeric relation to it. Shortly after their 
first interview the great Scotsman wrote this handsome 
tribute in his journal: 

January 22 [1827]. — A visit from Basil Hall with Mr. 
Audubon, the ornithologist, who has followed that pursuit by 
many a long wandering in the American forests. He is an 
American by naturalization, a Frenchman by birth ; but less of 
a Frenchman than I have ever seen — no dash, or glimmer, or 
shine about him, but great simplicity of manners and behaviour; 
slight in person, and plainly dressed ; wears long hair, which 
time has not yet tinged ; his countenance acute, handsome and 
interesting, but still simplicity is the predominant character- 

Of the later visit of which we just spoke we find this 
account : 

January 24. — Visit from Mr. Audubon, who brings some 
of his birds. The drawings are of the first order — the atti- 
tudes of the birds of the most animated character, and the 
situations appropriate ; one of a snake attacking a bird's nest, 
while the birds (the parents) peck at the reptile's eyes — they 
usually, in the long-run, destroy him, says the naturalist. The 
feathers of these gay little sylphs, most of them from the 
Southern States, are most brilliant, and are represented with 
what, were it [not] connected with so much spirit in the atti- 
tude, I would call a laborious degree of execution. This ex- 
treme correctness is of the utmost consequence to the natural- 
ist, [but] as I think (having no knowledge of vertu), rather 
gives a stiffness to the drawings. This sojourner in the desert 
has been in the woods for months together. He preferred as- 
sociating with the Indians to the company of the Back Settlers ; 
very justly, I daresay, for a civilized man of the lower order — 
that is, the dregs of civilization — when thrust back on the sav- 
age state becomes worse than a savage. . . . 


The Indians, he says, are dying fast ; they seem to pine and 
die whenever the white population approaches them. The 
Shawanese, who amounted, Mr. Audubon says, to some thou- 
sands within his memory, are almost extinct, and so are vari- 
ous other tribes. Mr. Audubon could never hear any tradition 
about the mammoth, though he made anxious inquiries. He 
gives no countenance to the idea that the red Indians were ever 
a more civilized people than at this day, or that a more civilized 
people had preceded them in North America. He refers the 
bricks, etc., occasionally found, and appealed to in support of 
this opinion, to the earlier settlers, — or, where kettles and other 
utensils may have been found, to the early trade between the 
Indians and the Spaniards. 

Audubon was anxious to receive a written recom- 
mendation from the great "Wizard of the North" touch- 
ing the merits of his work, the publication of which had 
just begun, but Sir Walter Scott sensibly demurred, on 
the ground that his knowledge of natural history was 
insufficient to qualify him to pass expert judgment. 
"But," he added, "I can easily and truly say, that what 
I have had the pleasure of seeing, touching your talents 
and manners, corresponds with all I have heard in your 
favor ; and I am a sincere believer in the extent of your 
scientific attainments." 

While Audubon was playing the role of society's 
pet lion at Edinburgh in the winter of 1827, he was 
painting to meet the expense of engraving his first 
plates, and writing at odd times of the day or night. 
On February 20 he recorded that his paper on the 
"Habits of the Wild Pigeon of America" was begun on 
the previous Wednesday, and finished at half past three 
in the morning; so completely, said he, was he trans- 
ported to the woods of America and to the pigeons, 
that his ears "were as if really filled with the noise of 


their wings' 1 ; yet he added that were it not for the facts 
it contained, he would not give a cent for it, "nor any- 
body else, I dare say." Four days later, at the Wer- 
nerian Society, he read his paper on the rattlesnake, 
but the torrent of abuse which soon rewarded his efforts 
in this direction finally led him to reserve all literary 
efforts for a future and more propitious time. 16 

A large painting begun in January of this year, 
called "Pheasants attacked by a Fox," was probably a 
variant of the "Pheasants attacked by a Dog" (illus- 
trated at page 394 ) , the original of which is now in the 
American Museum of Natural History, New York 
City. This canvas, which was exhibited by the Scottish 
Society of Artists in February, 1827, measured nine by 
six feet, and was the largest piece he had ever attempted. 
"Sometimes I like the picture," he said, and "then a 
heat rises in my face and I think it a miserable daub." 
"As to the birds," he added, "so far as they are con- 
cerned I am quite satisfied, but the ground, the foliage, 
the sky, the distance, are dreadful." 17 

In the spring of 1827 Audubon enjoyed the novel 
sensation of going to church in a sedan chair, and of 
hearing Sidney Smith preach. "He pleased me at 
times," he said, "by painting my foibles with care, and 
again I felt the color come to my cheeks as he por- 
trayed my sins." Later there was an opportunity to 
meet the famous preacher with his fair daughter, and 
to show them his drawings of American birds. 

The following letter 18 was sent at this time to his 
wife in America: 

16 See Chapter XXVIII. 

"Maria R. Audubon, op. cit., vol. i, p. 204. 

18 Which I owe to the kindness of his granddaughter, Miss Maria R. 
Audubon; it is superscribed "Mrs. Audubon, St. Francisville, Bayou Sarah, 
Louisville, p Wm Penn;" it reached New Orleans on June 13, and is 
endorsed as answered on June 23. 


Audubon to his Wife 

Edinburgh March Wh 1027. 

My Dearest Friend 


I am now proud that I can announce thee the result of the 
last meeting of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. I was 
unanimously elected a Foreign Member of that Institution on 
the 5* 1 ? Instant and am at last an F. R. S. . — Wilt thou not 
think it wonderful; to me it is like a dream, and quite as much 
so when I see the particular attentions paid me by all ranks of 
the best Society. On the 6^ I received the official Letter from 
the Secretary with the seal of the Society and the arms of 
Scotland — this along with my other diplomas and Letters, I 
assure thee enable me to be respected and well received in any 
portion of the Civilized World. Sir Walter Scott has also 
been so kind as to give me a Letter that I may exhibit wherever 
I may go=I have Two Letters from him very kind=all this I 
think will afford thee great Pleasure. 

I am now preparing to leave Edinburgh and will do so in 
a few days, I am now anxious to visit London as soon as I 
possibly can, and yet want to spend a few days at New Castle, 
York, Liverpool, Dublin, then back again to England, go by 
Cambridge and Oxford. — If I meet the success that I expect 
in that Tour it is very probable that soon after my reaching 
London, I will write for thee to Come, and when I do so, my 
Lucy may come without the least Hesitation for I will then be 
ready to receive her ! 

Since my last of the 22 d of February, I have received thine 
of the 81* of December, 3 d of January and 8^ of D? this last 
mostly John's, I am particularly glad that thou hast left the 
Beech Woods, yet thou might as well have given me at once 
thy good reasons for doing so. I hope that at this Instant 
that I am writing, thou art snug and comfortably settled afresh. 

The Trees and Segments have not yet arrived, but I hope 
to hear soon that they have — I have not a word about the 
Seeds reaching yet. do my Love always say by what vessel any 
thing comes, as John as concluded to take Lessons of Music 


I have no wish to sell my Gun but wish to give it him as his 
ow[n] in Fee Simple, as soon as he deserves it from thy own 
Hands. May God bless him ! — if all continues well with me 
Victor and him may rise to eminence and therefore try Johny's 
Spunk, do beg or make him draw all kinds of Limbs of Trees 
or Flowers for me and Avhenever he kills a bird of any kind tell 
him to measure the Guts particularly and make a regular list 
of the names of the Birds, length and thickness of those Gute 
and their contents= 19 

I wrote a long letter to each Victor and N. Berthoud on 
the 27 February, but not a word from either of them as yet 
reached me. I was quite shocked to see thy last letter of the 
8 th of January without the print of thy new Seals, I am quite 
frightened at thy watch not having reach d thee, yet I hope every 
new Letter will bring me better tidings. I now collecting Let- 
ters from all my Friends here and will have God knows enough 
of them. I only hope I may soon be in a regular way of making 
a comfortable living for ourselves all: 

All the papers and books I send thee mention my name. My 
work is look d upon as unrivalled in any Country, I will soon 
know how it will pay. — I can only add that I will write to thee 
from all the places I visit=Let Victor have a copy of this= 
Collect all kinds of Curiosities whatever=try to send or bring 
with thee but send first if Possible Live Birds of hardy kinds 
such as Blue Jays by themselves. Red Birds D°. red wing d 
Starling D°, Partridges & c &? — present my humble respects to 
M^ & M^? Johnsons an remembrances to good Friend bourgeat 
— try to send me an account of the growing of Cotton from 
A to Z, written by an able Planter — I wish thee to make regu- 
lar memorandums thyself respecting all about Habits & Lo- 
calities & c &£=thou wilst scarce believe that this day there 
[are] in many places 16 feet of snow, the weather has been 
tremendous — yet with all this no Invitation is ever laid aside 

19 John Woodhouse Audubon at this time was in his fifteenth year, and 
this injunction regarding the internal anatomy of birds, to which ornitholo- 
gists had hitherto paid but little attention, was given three years before 
his father made the acquaintance of MacGillivray. (See Chapter XXX.) 


and the other evening I went to Diner in a Hackny Coach 
drawn by 4 Horses, and to church on Sunday last in a Sedan 
chair to hear the famous Sidney Smith, curious diferences of 
manners here I assure thee. 

I have seen and know personally all the great men of Scot- 
land and many of England. 

What a curious interesting book a Biographer — well acquainted 
with my Life could write, it is still more wonderfull and ex- 
traordinary than that of my Father ! 

Fear not my connecting myself in any way with Charles M. 
he is a mere worm on the hearth, and since he has abandoned 
his Grand Flora is out of my books — it has perhaps been an 
error in our Lives that thou didst not come with me. So much 
indeed do I now think so that I have advised Cap2 Hall to 
take his Lady and child with him. be sure to pave the way for 
them to Judge Mathews and N. Berthoud to whom I have given 
him letters to. — I send thee his Travels, read his interview with 
Napoleon ; I write my Journal every day, it seems that that 
portion of it forward d thee long ago as never reach * thee as 
thou dost not mention it. I am sorry for all these little mis- 
fortunes and can hardly a/c for them. I have not heard from 
H. Clay but will refresh his memory, I hope at the same time to 
receive a Letter from the President=I hope this day the last 
beautiful broach I sent thee as a new Years gift is shining on 
thy bosom, as I have witnessed the brightness of thy own sweet 
Eyes, oh my Lucy what would I give now in my possession for 

a kiss on thy Lips and God for ever bless thee thine 

Husband and Friend for ever — John J. Audubon 

F. R. S. E. Fellow Royal Society Edinburgh— 

F. A. S — D? D° T>9. antiquarians— 

M. W. S. N. H. — Member Wernerian Society of Natural His- 
M. S. A.— D° Society of Arts of Scotland— 

M. P. L. S. — D° Philosophical & Literary Society 

M. L. N. Y. — T>9 Lyceum of New York. 


My Dear John — 

I am very thankfull to you for your Letters con- 
tinue to write from time to time, draw, and study music 
closely, there is time for all things — I give you my Gun 
with all my Heart best wishes, but earn it at your Dear 
Mamma's will — God bless You — 

Your Father and Friend — 

John J. Audubon 

At Edinburgh Audubon met a young landscape 
painter, Joseph B. Kidd, and the two worked together 
for some time, Kidd receiving instruction in animal 
painting and Audubon hints on the treatment of his 
landscapes, which had always been a source of trouble 
to him. Kidd was Audubon's Edinburgh agent for a 
time, and later entered upon the ambitious project of 
reproducing all of his birds in oils, as will be noticed 
later. 20 

On March 17, 1827, when the second number of his 
Birds was in preparation, Audubon boldly issued his 
"Prospectus," contrary to the advice of some of his 
friends, who could see only egregious folly in such an 
undertaking and regarded it as foredoomed to failure. 
As everybody knows, it is easier to say things than to 
do them, but all these friendly critics sang a different 
tune later on, when they had seen more of the indom- 
itable will and self-reliance of the man, who was to 
carry steadily forward to a successful issue a work 
which was in press nearly twelve years and which cost 
over $100,000 to produce. In Audubon's original 
prospectus of The Birds of America the specifications 
as to the form, size, and cost of the work, which had 
been determined for some months, underwent little 

"See Chapter XXV. 


change in subsequent editions of this printed state- 
ment. 21 

Audubon left Edinburgh for London on April 5, 
1827, with locks shorn but energy unabated. He fol- 
lowed a roundabout course, visiting Belford, "Mitford 
Castle," Newcastle-upon-Tyne, York, Leeds, Liver- 
pool, and Shrewsbury, at every point extending his ac- 
quaintance, showing his drawings to many, and adding 
appreciably to his growing list of subscribers. Several 
days were spent in hunting and drawing birds with the 
Selbys, at their beautiful country place called "Twizel 
House," at Belford, in Northumberland, where he was 
soon made to feel as much at home as with his older 
Liverpool friends, the Rathbones, at "Green Bank." 
P. J. Selby, after whom Audubon named a Flycatcher 
which appeared in his second number, was an amateur 
artist and ornithologist, and at that time was engaged 
upon an extensive publication to which Audubon was 

21 The work, as originally announced, was to appear in parts of 5 
plates each, at 2 guineas a part, and in order to distribute the expense 
to purchasers it was expected to issue but 5 parts a year. The plates, 
to be engraved on copper, were of double elephant folio size, and printed 
on paper of the finest quality, all the birds and flowers to be life-size, and 
to be carefully colored by hand, after the originals; any subscriber 
was at liberty to take a part or the whole. It was stated in the 
prospectus of 1829, when 10 parts had been published: "There are 400 
Drawings, and it is proposed that they shall comprise Three Volumes, 
each containing 133 Plates, to which an Index will be given at the 
end of each, to be bound up with the volume. ... It would be advisable 
for the subscriber to procure a Portfolio, to keep the Numbers till 
a volume is completed." To avoid the expense entailed by copyright 
regulations in England, indices and all other letterpress were eventually 
omitted; the number of parts was extended to 87, or 435 plates, and the 
number of volumes to 4, a necessity imposed by the discovery of many 
new birds, even after the omission of the figures of the eggs, which 
Audubon had reserved for the close, and the undue crowding of many 
of his final plates. The "Prospectus" issued with the first volume of 
the text in 1831 contained a list of the first 100 plates, together with 
extracts of reviews by Cuvier and Swainson, and a list of subscribers 
to the number of 180. For further details, see Bibliography, No. 1, and 
Appendix III, No. 2. 


invited to contribute, a single volume of plates and text 
having then been published. 22 

At Newcastle, where Audubon spent a week, he 
saw much of its grand old man, Thomas Bewick, "the 
first wood cutter in the world," and conceived a deep 
regard for him, which he afterwards expressed in one 
of his "Episodes." As they parted, this great son of 
nature held him closely by the hand, and for the third 
time repeated, "God preserve you!" "I looked at him 
in such a manner," said Audubon, "that I am sure he 
understood I could not speak." 

22 Illustrations of British Ornithology, by Prideaux John Selby. The 
British Museum copy of this work is in two large folio volumes (measur- 
ing about 25 y 2 by 20y 2 inches), and was issued originally in numbers 
which appeared at irregular intervals. Vol. I, plates i-iv (of bills, heads, 
and feet), i-c (of land birds); most of the plates are by Selby, and many 
were etched by him and autographed, 1819-1821 ; plates xiv, xvi, and xx are 
by Captain R. Mitford, whose home, "Mitford Castle," near Morpeth, 
Northumberland, was visited by Audubon in April, 1827; published at 
Edinburgh by Archibald Constable & Co., and by Hurst, Robinson & 
Co., London, 1825 (?)-1827. Volume II, plates i-ciii; printed for the 
Proprietor & published by W. H. Lizars, Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, 
Green & Longman, London; and W. Curry, Junr. & Co., Dublin, 
MDCCCXXXIV. Quaritch, in offering a copy in 1887, at £55, stated 
that there were 383 figures, in 221 colored plates, and that the pub- 
lished price was £105. Newton (Dictionary of Birds, p. 27) says that 
the first series of these "Illustrations" was published in cooperation with 
Sir William Jardine, in 3 volumes of 150 plates, in 1827-1835, after which 
a second series was started by them, and completed in a single volume 
of 53 plates, issued in 1843. This was the "job book" mentioned earlier 
in this chapter (see p. 358), but neither Jardine's nor Jameson's name is 
mentioned in the volumes which I have examined. 

In a letter to Audubon, dated "Sept. I3h 1830 Twizel [1?] House," and 
postmarked "Belford," Selby said: "I expect to bring my own work to a 
conclusion during the course of this winter having only the plates of another 
Number to finish. I am happy to add that the Work is doing well & is 
more than paying itself. The second Vol: of letter press will appear with 
the last No." 

Two volumes of text were published in 1825 and 1833 respectively; 
the first, after readjustment to fit the "quinarian doctrine," to which 
Selby was a temporary convert (see Vol. II, p. 94), was issued in a second 
edition at London, in 1841; the second volume bore the imprint of Lizars, 
who soon after began to work for Audubon. 

Selby's plates were for the most part rather crudely drawn, etched 
and colored, and could be commended only as the work of amateurs 
who strove for accuracy. 


As he proceeded southward, his subscription list 
augmented apace, Manchester alone giving him eighteen 
new names, and he began to feel more sanguine of suc- 
cess, if, he added, "I continue to be honest, industrious, 
and consistent." 



Impressions of the metropolis — A trunk full of letters — Friendship of 
Children — Sir Thomas Lawrence — Lizars stops work — A family of 
artists — Robert Havell, Junior — The Birds of America fly to London — 
The Zoological Gallery — Crisis in the naturalist's affairs — Royal 
patronage — Interview with Gallatin — Interesting the Queen — Desertion 
of patrons — Painting to independence — Personal habits and tastes — 
Enters the Linnsean Society — The White-headed Eagle — Visit to the 
great universities — Declines to write for magazines — Audubon-Swain- 
son correspondence — "Highfield Hall" near Tyttenhanger — In Paris 
with Swainson — Glimpses of Cuvier — His report on The Birds of 
America — Patronage of the French Government and the Duke of 
Orleans — Bonaparte the naturalist. 

Audubon reached London on May 21, 1827, and 
put up at the "Bull and Mouth" tavern, but soon moved 
into more permanent lodgings at number 55 Great 
Russell Street, near the British Museum. Though for 
a long time eager to see the capital, no sooner had he 
reached it than he was anxious to be away and more 
homesick than ever for his family and his beloved 
America. London then seemed to him "like the mouth 
of an immense monster, guarded by millions of sharp- 
edged teeth," from which he could escape only by 

He had brought with him a formidable array of 
letters addressed to the elite of the capital, 1 and he bore 

1 Among the sixty or more persons to whom Audubon carried written 
credentials at this time were the following: the Duke of Northumberland, 
Robert Peel, Sir Humphry Davy, Sir J. D. Aukland, Albert Gallatin, 
the American Minister, Sir Thomas Lawrence, David Wilkie, Dr. Buck- 
land, Dr. Holland, Dr. Roget, Dr. Wollaston, William Swainson, Sir 
William Herschel, and his son, afterwards Sir John Herschel, John George 
Children, R. W. Hay, N. A. Vigors, Captain Cook, John Murray and 
Robert Bakewell (see Vol. II, p. 134). 



besides nearly a trunkful for the Continent, as well as 
general letters from Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson and 
others in America for our consular and diplomatic rep- 
resentatives in Europe. His epistolary basis for the 
acquisition of useful acquaintances could hardly have 
been better, and further testimonials were gathered at 
every stage of his progress to the city of his hopes, but 
Audubon's best letter of credit, which could be read by 
all the world, was an open, winning countenance. After 
he had wandered over London for the greater part of 
three days without finding a single individual at home, 
he was tempted to consign his valuable documents to 
the post, an error which he did not repeat, as it deprived 
him of the acquaintance of fully one-half of the people 
to whom they were addressed. One of these London 
letters which follows, written by Captain Basil Hall to 
John Murray, the noted publisher and founder of the 
Quarterly Review, is particularly interesting in show- 
ing that Audubon was far from pleased with the prog- 
ress of his work in Edinburgh, and that he was then 
contemplating a change which was later effected. 

Basil Hall to John Murray 

Edinb 23rd Feby. 1827 
My Dear Sir 

This will be delivered to you by my friend Mr John Audu- 
bon, an American Gentleman who has been residing here this 
winter, & I beg in the most particular manner to introduce him 
to your acquaintance and to ask for him the advantage of your 
good offices. 

Mr Audubon has spent [a] great part of his life in making 
a collection of drawings of the Birds of North America, & in 
studying their Habits, with the intention of publishing a Com- 
plete Ornithology of America. For such a work his materials, 
both in the shape of drawings and of written notes, are immense 


and he is now going to London in order to set this gigantic work 
in motion. 

Mr Audubon, however, is not very well versed in the details 
of such matters, & therefore I beg of you to have the goodness 
to aid him with your advice on the occasion — to introduce en- 
gravers printers & so forth to him, and generally speaking to 
put him in the way of bringing out his work in an advantageous 
manner to himself. 

1 trust all this will give you no more trouble than you will 
be willing to take at my earnest solicitation. 

I remain Ever, My Dear Sir, 
Most Sincerely Yrs 

Basil Hall. 
John Murray Esqr 

Audubon carried also a long letter from "Mr. 
Hay," 2 dated at "16 Athol Crescent, Edinburgh, 15 
March, 1827," and addressed to the care of his brother, 
Robert William Hay, of Downing Street, West, in 
which this curious statement occurs: "Mr. A. is son of 
the late French Admiral Audubon, but has himself lived 
from the cradle in the United States, having been born 
in one of the French colonies." 

The document which was to prove of greatest service 
to him, however, was addressed to John George Chil- 
dren, 3 then in charge of the Department of Zoology in 

2 Probably the same that is referred to in his journals as "Mr. Hays, 
the antiquarian." 

3 J. G. Children (1777-1852) was early interested in chemistry, and 
at Tunbridge built a good laboratory, in which Humphry Davy con- 
ducted many of his early experiments, and while there was seriously in- 
jured in October, 1812. In 1824 Children discovered a method of extract- 
ing silver without the use of mercury. When Mr. Children, Senior, be- 
came insolvent through the failure of his bank, his son obtained a position 
at the British Museum; in 1816 he was librarian in the Department of 
Antiquities, but in 1823 he was transferred to a post in zoology which 
was eagerly sought by William Swainson; he was secretary of the Royal 
Society in 1826-27, and again in 1835-37. He resigned his position at the 
Museum in 1840, when Swainson was again an unsuccessful candidate, and 


the British Museum and secretary of the Royal Society. 
Children assumed the management of Audubon's work 
when he returned to America in 1829 and again in 
1831; to him and Lord Stanley, in 1830, the naturalist 
probably owed his nomination to membership in the 
Royal Society. 

Soon after reaching London Audubon paid his re- 
spects to Sir Thomas Lawrence, for whom he had two 
letters, and made an appointment for showing his work 
to this famous artist. He was also gratified to receive 
the subscription of Lord Stanley and of Charles Lucien 
Bonaparte, who was then in London. 

Audubon had not been in London a month before 
word was received from Lizars that all his colorers had 
struck work and that everything was at a stand. Ac- 
cordingly, he began to search London for skilled work- 
men, and on June 18 wrote: "I went five times to see 
Mr. Ha veil, the colorer, but he was out of town. I am 
full of anxiety and greatly depressed. Oh! how sick 
I am of London!" Three days later another discour- 
aging letter came from Lizars, who shortly after threw 
up his contract and left his patron in a sad predica- 
ment — with an enormously expensive work, still-born, 
on his hands, without adequate funds, and, in short, 
with all his cherished plans suspended in mid-air. Audu- 
bon no doubt realized that if his grand undertaking 
were to succeed at all, it must experience a new birth 
in London, where an expert engraver of the requisite 
enterprise and zeal must be found without delay. He 
closed his journal on the second day of July with the 

was succeeded by J. E. Gray (see Vol. I, p. 353). Children was not a pro- 
ductive zoologist, but has been described as a lovable soul, who was never 
soured by illness or other misfortunes, and who was as zealous in his friend- 
ships as in science. See "A. A." (Anna Atkins), Memoir of J. G. Children, 
Esq. (Bibl No. 175). 


Fettow eft/be Bey at Societies ofZondon & Bdin6urg-/j and of tie 
Zi?tneean^Sc Zccfrcricai Societies efBcndc// 
Jfcmforcfthe Nalum/ Zfiston Society of Ben's. cfl//c Ij ream of'jVeu -York, 
"the BfoUosopJbecal Society and* tie. Academy of Natural Sciences ofBbiladetfikia. 
of t6c Natural Jfistory Society of Boston cf Charleston. 
&c &c &c 

CXtfifefo *•£/ 
Ribhshed hy the Author. 

Vol. II. 

1831. 34. 


iij 1831-1834. 



remark that he was too dull and mournful to write a 
line, and it was not opened again for nearly three months. 
This gap in Audubon's record can now be filled in 
reference to some important particulars, for in the in- 
terval he made his greatest discovery in England, in 
Robert Havell, Junior, then a young and unknown 
artist of thirty-four, who through eleven years of the 
closest association with his new patron was to become 
one of the greatest engravers in aquatint the world has 
ever seen. Until recently the intimate story of Audu- 
bon's relation to the Havells has been much obscured. 4 
The reference in the journal record of June 19, just 
given, was undoubtedly to Robert Havell, Senior, who 
for many years was associated with his father, Daniel 
Havell, the first of five generations of artists of that 
name, in the engraving and publishing business, but 
who at this time was established independently at 79 
Newman Street, London; he also conducted a shop 
called the "Zoological Gallery," at which were sold en- 
gravings, books, artists' materials, naturalists' supplies, 
and specimens of natural history of every sort. His 
three sons, Robert, George, and Henry Augustus, all 
became artists, but the eldest, who bore his father's 
name, was educated for a learned profession. Contrary 
to his father's injunctions and advice, Robert, who was 
bent on becoming an artist, abruptly left his home in 
1825, determined to shift for himself. He began with 
an extensive sketching tour on the River Wye, in Mon- 
mouthshire, and produced numerous paintings which, 

4 In the account which follows, as well as in numerous instances in 
Chapter XXXII, I am most indebted to George Alfred Williams, who 
in "Robert Havell, Junior, Engraver of Audubon's The Birds of America," 
(Bibl. No. 232) (Print-Collectors Quarterly, vol. vi, no. 3, pp. 225-259, 
Boston, 1916), has given the only satisfactory account of the Havell family 
and the best analysis of the work of the great engraver. 


as his biographer remarks, display all the charm found 
in the work of his distinguished cousin, William Havell. 
These won immediate recognition in London, where he 
received commissions from various publishers, includ- 
ing the house of Messrs. Colnaghi & Company. 

Robert Havell, Senior, then in his fifty-eighth year, 
though deeply interested in Audubon's adventurous 
plans, felt himself too old to embark on so extended a 
work, which it was then believed would require from 
fourteen to sixteen years for completion; he volun- 
teered, however, to do his best to find a substitute. 
With this in view, he applied to Mr. Colnaghi, the pub- 
lisher, and was immediately shown the unsigned proof 
of a beautiful landscape, exquisitely drawn and en- 
graved by one of the youthful retainers of his estab- 
lishment. The elder Havell, after scrutinizing it care- 
fully, exclaimed, "That's just the man for me!" 
"Then," replied the publisher, "send for your own son!" 
Through this singular coincidence, father and son be- 
came reconciled and a partnership between them was 
soon announced. 

As a test of young Havell's skill, to follow the 
story of his biographer, Audubon gave him his drawing 
of the Prothonotary Warbler, which had already been 
engraved and issued by Lizars as Plate iii of The Birds 
of America earlier in that year. Havell finished the 
engraving in two weeks, when a proof was struck and 
the naturalist summoned. Audubon examined the 
. print with the utmost keenness and deliberation ; then 
he seized the sheet, and holding it up, danced about 
the room, calling out in his French accent: "Ze jig is 
up, ze jig is up!" The Havells, who at first thought 
this might signify disapproval, were quickly disabused 
when Audubon approached young Robert and, throw- 


ing his arms about his neck, assured him that his long- 
sought engraver had been found at last. Having given 
this story, I wish it were possible to confirm it, but a 
close examination of this plate proves either that the 
story is a fiction, or that some other drawing was used 
as a test of Havell's skill. 5 

The part which this interesting family played in 
Audubon's success will be unfolded later. Suffice it 
now to say that Messrs. Robert Havell & Son, in Lon- 
don, undertook afresh the production of The Birds of 
America in the summer of 1827. The partnership was 
divided or dissolved in 1828, when Robert, junior, who 
from the first did all of the engraving, took entire 
charge of that part of the business, and moved his en- 
graving establishment around the corner to 77 Oxford 
Street ; there it remained until broken up in 1838. Rob- 
ert Havell, Senior, continued in charge of the printing 
and coloring until 1830, when he seems to have per- 
manently retired, two years before his death in 1832, 
events which, as will be seen, are indirectly registered 
in the legends of some of Audubon's plates. 7 

5 Mr. Charles E. Goodspeed, who recently sent me two of the original 
plates of the Prothonotary Warbler, one bearing the legend "Engraved by 
W. H. Lizars Edinr," and the other, "Engraved, Printed & Coloured, by 
R. Havell Junr," called attention to the identity of the two engravings. 
That these two impressions are absolutely identical in aquatint and line is 
proved by applying a magnifying glass to any part of their surfaces, and 
by counting and comparing the lines or dots within any selected area what- 
soever; in short, they differ only in their legends, and in the coloring which 
was applied by different hands. That such methods should have been 
adopted for excluding Lizars' name is certainly surprising. In the first or 
Edinburgh impression of Lizars' original plate, the artist's legend reads: . 
"Drawn by J. J. Audubon M. W. S.," and names of bird and plant appear 
at the bottom of the plate in three lines: "PROTHONOTARY WARBLER. 
Dacnis prntonotarius. Plant Vulgo Cane Vine." In the London edition the 
corresponding designations are: "Drawn from nature by J. J. Audubon 
F, R, S. F, L, S.," and PROTHONOTARY WARBLER. Sylvia Protono- 
tarius. Lath, Male. 1. Female, 2. Cane Vine.," in four lines. 

6 See Chapter XXXII. 

7 See ibid. 



H ~5 5 

* " B • 

H S u < 
"1 O fc — 




r, S O 
fe fc * 

S < r- 


►J W 






Under the younger Havell's guiding hand, Audu- 
bon found that his illustrations could be produced in 
better style, more expeditiously, and at far less cost 
than in Edinburgh. When Lizars was later shown the 
third number which the Havells had produced, he called 
his assistants and observed how completely the London 
workmen had beaten them; he even offered to resume 
work on the engraving and at Havell's price, but Audu- 
bon was averse to further experimenting. "If he can 
fall," said he, "twenty-seven pounds in the engraving 
of each number, and do them in a superior style to his 
previous work, how enormous must his profits have 
been ; a good lesson to me in the time to come, though I 
must remember Havell is more reasonable owing to 
what has passed between us in our business arrange- 
ments, and the fact that he owes so much to me." 

This characteristic note was sent from Liverpool, 
December 6, 1827, to his agent, Daniel Lizars, father 
to W. H. Lizars, at Edinburgh: 

I will not ask if you have any new name for me, as I might 
be disappointed were I to expect an affirmative answer. 

If you see Sir Wm. Jardine tell him that Charles Bonaparte 
lias left the U. S. for ever, and has gone to reside in Florence, 

I have wrote to Mr. Havell to send you a No. 5, which I 
wish you to send to Professor Wilson, or indeed a whole set, to 
enable him to write the notice he has promised for me the 1st. 
of next month. 

Audubon sent another letter to this agent, from 
Lonclon, January 21, 1828, when he was still waiting 
for an answer to his last: "When I write to any one I 
expect an answer, but when I write to a man I esteem, 
and to whom I entrust a portion of my business, I feel 


In submitting this List of Publications, R. HaVELL begs to slate, he has on Sale 
a very extensive and well selected Assortment of Encravincs and Works of 
Art, arranged in Portfolios, with the Prices affixed, comprising subjects after 
"Wilkie, Turner, Martin, Lawrance, Newtou, Burnett, and others. Lithographs, 
Studies of Animals, Figures and Heads, &c. &c. 

Birds of America, by J. J. Audubon, vol. 
1 and 2. 

Ornithological Biography, by J. J. Audu- 
bon, vol. 1 and 2. 

Antiquities of Mexico, by Lord Visconnt 

Hexandrian Plants, bv Mrs. E. Bury. 

African Animals and Scenery, by Daniels. 

Birds of Paradise, by F. Le Vaillaint. 

Floral Illustrations of the Seasons, by Mrs. 
E. Roscoe. 

Views in the Ionian Islands, by J. 

Cartwright. . 
Court of Persia. 
Albanian and Greek Costumes. 
Aeronautical View of London. 
Ditto ditto of Paris. 

Panoramic View of King George's 

Panoramic View.of Corfu. 
Foreign Costumes. 
All Works on Natural History. 

R. H. begs to observe that all Works entrusted to his care for Publication are 
Engraved, Printed and Coloured , onder bis entire inspection, on his Establishment , 
by which means they are not made public on til ready for delivery. 

Superfine SSJatcv Colour*, 

In Cakes or Boxes. 

R. Havell begs to recommend his Superfine Water Colours, as being 
prepared with the greatest care, and solicits a Trial. 

£. s. d. 

In Mahogany Boxes, 18 cakes, lock, palettes, marble slab, drawer, &e. 1 JO 

Ditto ditto, 12 cakes 110 

Ditto ditto, 12 cakes, without drawer 18 

Ditto ditto, 12 cakes, lock and drawer 15 

Ditto ditto, 12 cakes, without ditto 13 

Dittc ditto, 18 cakes, sliding lop 15 

Ditto ditto, 12 cakes, ditto 10 6 

Ditto ditto, 6 cakes, ditto ....» , C 

Cumberland Black Lead Drawing Pencils. 


Whatman's Superfine smooth rolled Drawing Paper, sold in sheets, quires or 



Pennine 3!nDfan 31nk- 

English and French Crayon Paper of all Colours. Ditto ditto Chalks. 




Black Lead ft mils. H |t ni the Highest Feefect 

• 3S<Tvi, v 

Bnstol&Londori. Board* 

'fr k^MWl, 77' ' - * Sen * 


.^3row_JbCo 40( 



^ eveiw, s//:jc?sYt//r/M \ 


Book BiruHng. 


T'lft* e/ Lt«trfpri 


Importer ot" and Dealer in 

^An. Extensive afsvrtmad of Bints 
Ova] i Square ShaAes 




From the only copy known to exist, in possession of Mr. Ruthven Deane. 

is a strip of heavy paper, 18 by 3% inches in size, printed on both 

sides, and folded twice, tlie folded size being 4*/ 2 by 3% 

inches. One side bears the four panels, engraved 

by Robert Havell, reproduced on this and 

the following page; and the reverse, 

the printed matter reproduced 

on pages 386 and 387. 



ABOUT 1834. 

The lower panel shows the interior of the "Zoological Gallery," 77 Oxford 

Street. Audubon's plate of the Cock Turkey is being 

examined at one of the tables. 

R. Havell begs to inform Zoological Collectors that, having an extensive 
correspondence, he is enabled to supply Natural Productions from all parts of 
the Globe. 

Birds and Beasts Stuffed and Preserved 

In the highest perfection, at his Establishment, and tli« greatest care taken to 
place the specimens in their natural attitudes and pursnits. 

A great variety of Coloured and Black Eyes. 

TAXIDURMIE, ortbe Art of Collecting & PreparingObjects of Natural Historj. 

Maple, Gold and Black Cases, 


The present Collection consists of the most rare Land and Water Bird* from 

North America, &c. 


Framed and Glazed, in Gold, Maple, and all kinds of Ornamental and Fancy 
Woods, Straining, Varnishing, &c. 



£. S. d. 

Yearly Subscription 3 3 

Half-yearly ditto 1 11 6 

Quarterly ditto 16 

Weeklyditto , 2 6 


Plain and Ornamental Albums. 

Ditto ditto Scrap Books. 

Ditto ditto Blotting Cases. 

Ditto ditto ditto, with lock and key. 


Sketch Books of all sizes. 

ORDERS FOR Exportation executed with promptitude, and on the lowest 
terms, at 77, Oxford Street. 





miserable until I hear from him. ... I am extremely 
anxious to close my business for 1827, and cannot do so 
without receiving your a/c, and the money due by my 

The summer of 1827 was probably Audubon's most 
critical period in England. His work was then in the 
air and ruin of all his hopes seemed inevitable, but with 
palette and brush he again extricated himself from 
financial difficulties. At this time, he said, "I painted 
all day, and sold my work during the dusky hours of 
the evening as I walked through the Strand and other 
streets where the Jews reigned; popping in and out of 
Jew-shops or any others, and never refusing the offer 
made me for the pictures I carried fresh from the 
easel." He sold seven copies of the "Entrapped Otter" 
in London, Manchester, and Liverpool, and from seven 
to ten copies of some of his other favorite subjects; once 
when he inadvertently called at a shop where he had 
just disposed of a picture, the dealer promptly bought 
the duplicate and at the same price that he had paid 
for the first. 

In the autumn of this year, when it was found that 
his agents were neglecting their business, Audubon 
determined to make a sortie to collect his dues and 
further augment his subscription list. He left London 
on September 16, and visited in succession Manchester, 
Leeds, York, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Alnwick Castle and 
Belford, to see the Selbys, finally reaching Edinburgh 
on the 22nd of October. 

Audubon had set his mark at obtaining 200 sub- 
scribers by May, 1828, but he fell far short of realizing 
it. On August 9 he wrote: "This day seventy sets 
have been distributed ; yet the number of my subscribers 
has not increased; on the contrary, I have lost some." 


At York he found that a number of his Birds, which had 
been forwarded from Edinburgh before he had taken 
his departure, "was miserably poor, scarcely colored 
at all"; and a copy of his first number which was later 
examined at the Radcliffe Library in Oxford was so 
unsatisfactory that he rolled it up and took it away, with 
the reflection that Lizars, whom he had paid "so amply 
and so punctually," could have made him a better re- 
turn. The colorists gave no end of trouble, but he 
never hesitated to reject their work when it did not 
meet his requirements, and the defective plates were 
invariably sent back to Havell's shop to be washed, hot- 
pressed, and done over again. To such watchful care 
must be ascribed, in large measure, the high degree of 
perfection which his big work eventually attained. 
When it is remembered that upwards of one hundred 
thousand of his large plates had to be colored labori- 
ously by hand, and that at one time fifty persons were 
engaged at the Havell establishment, we can understand 
the difficulties involved in maintaining a uniform stand- 
ard of excellence in a work that was issued piecemeal and 
spread over a long period of time. 

In August, 1827, Audubon wrote to Mrs. Thomas 
Sully of Philadelphia to announce the removal of his 
business to London. By this change he expected to 
save "upwards of an hundred pounds per annum, a 
large sum," as he remarked, "for a man like me." His 
third number had then been issued, and he expressed 
the hope that all would go smoothly after "this first year 
of hard trials and times," and that he would be able to 
send for his wife and one of his sons in the coming 
autumn or winter. He was then painting "a flock of 
Wild Turkeys for the king, who had honored him with 
his particular patronage and protection." When writ- 


ing to his young son, John W. Audubon, on the 10th 
of the same month, he charged him to devote two hours 
daily to the preparation of bird skins, and to send him 
not only the skins but live birds and mussel shells, for 
which he would be duly paid. Said the father: 

I would give you 500 dollars per annum, were you able 
to make for me such drawings as I will want. I wish you would 
draw one bird only, on a twig, and send it [to me] to look at, 
as soon as you can after receiving this letter. ... I should 
like to have a large box filled with branches of the trees, cov- 
ered with mosses &c, such as Mama knows I want; now recol- 
lect, all sorts of Birds, males and females, ugly or handsome. 

Audubon had come to London with the idea of hav- 
ing his work published under the patronage of King 
George IV; in order to gain a personal interview with 
the Sovereign he had brought a letter to Robert Peel, 
who was then the Home Secretary, but a change in 
the Cabinet had upset his plans and the letter was re- 
turned. He then applied to the American Ambassador, 
Mr. Albert Gallatin, who upon their first meeting ad- 
dressed him in French and showed "the ease and charm 
of manner of a perfect gentleman" ; but when the ques- 
tion of an audience with the King was broached, Gal- 
latin laughed at the idea as preposterous. "The king," 
he declared, "sees nobody; he has the gout, is peevish, 
and spends his time playing whist at a shilling a rubber. 
I had to wait six weeks before I was presented to him 
in my position of ambassador, and then I merely saw 
him six or seven minutes." When Audubon then sug- 
gested that the Duke of Northumberland might interest 
himself in his behalf, Gallatin, who disliked the English 
heartily, replied: "I have called hundreds of times on 
like men in England, and have been assured that his 



Hftr iHait ffrrtltcnt iHitjrtty, 








P. R. Sri. L & K. 

LtcEcm op mbv vobk, me nati hai Hiftfimv *<»■ ibtt or faais, the wer«« 










grace, or lordship, or [her] ladyship was not at home, 
until I have grown wiser, and stay at home myself, and 
merely attend to my political business, and God knows 
when I will have done with that." 

As the American Ambassador had predicted, King 
George evinced no ardent desire to meet the American 
woodsman, though he consented to take the work under 
his patronage and to become a subscriber on the usual 
terms; this plan, however, fell through, for the King, 
who was reported to have taken his copy, failed to pay 
for it. With Queen Adelaide, on the other hand, the 
naturalist was more successful, and in his "Prospectus" 
of 1831 she was announced as his special patron, with 
her name heading his list. Negotiations to interest the 
Queen were going on when the following note was sent 
to Audubon by Sir J. W. Waller, who occupied some 
position in the king's household and was spoken of as 
"oculist to his majesty": 

Sir J. W. Waller to Audubon 

Saturday 9 o clock [1830]. 

I have scarce an Instant as I am going to Town to break- 
fast with the Dk. of Gloucester, but yr. Letter is urgent & 
therefore I can only desire Mr. A. to send his Number imme- 
diately to the Stable Yard, directed to her Majesty, & the first 
moment I can see her, I will speak on the subject, but at this 
Moment I will not promise to mention it to the King for reasons 
I cannot put on paper. 

Yrs. ever, 

J. W. Waller 

At Edinburgh Audubon was alarmed to find that 
subscribers were rapidly deserting him, six having can- 
celled their names without the formality of giving rea- 


sons. He hoped to supply their places at Glasgow, then 
a rich city of one hundred and fifty thousand people, 
but after a visit there of four days in November, 1827, 
he was obliged to return to Edinburgh with but one 
new name on his list. 

On October 22 he expressed the resolve for the com- 
ing year "to positively keep a cash account" with him- 
self and others, "a thing" he had "never yet done." The 
wisdom of that decision was apparent upon settling his 
accounts for 1827 with both Lizars and Havell, as ap- 
pears from this note, written in his journal on January 
17, 1828: "It is difficult work for a man like me to see 
that he is neither cheating nor cheated. All is paid for 
1827, and I am well ahead in funds. Had I made such 
regular settlements all my life I should never have been 
as poor a man as I have been ; but on the other hand I 
should never have published the "Birds of America." 
Again, for February 7 we find this record: "Havell 
brought me the sets he owed me for 1827, and I paid 
him in full. Either through him or Mr. Lizars I have 
met with a loss of nearly £100, for I am charged with 
fifty numbers more than can be accounted for by my 
agents or myself. This seems strange always to me, 
that people cannot be honest, but I must bring myself 
to believe many are not, from my own experiences." 

Shortly after reaching London, as we have seen, 
Audubon had made the acquaintance of Sir Thomas 
Lawrence, then at the head of the Royal Academy and 
favorite painter of the Court and fashionable society. 
The friendship of this influential artist at a critical mo- 
ment proved most fortunate, for Sir Thomas called 
repeatedly at his lodgings, and at each visit brought 
patrons who went away with some of his pictures but 
not without leaving a handsome toll of sovereigns in 


his lap; the "Entrapped Otter" again did duty by 
bringing him twenty-five pounds, while others returned 
from seven to thirty-five pounds. At a later time the 
artist visited the "Zoological Gallery," as the Havell 
establishment in Newman Street was then known, and 
saw Audubon's large paintings called "The Eagle and 
the Lamb," and "English Pheasants Surprised by a 
Spanish Dog" or "Sauve qui pent/' Audubon, who 
on this occasion missed seeing his distinguished visitor, 
had written in his journal three days before (December 
23, 1828) that the paintings were what he called "fin- 
ished," but that, as usual, he could not bear to look at 
either. Sir Thomas praised the "Eagle," admired an 
"Otter," which was later exhibited in London, but gave 
no opinion on the "Pheasants." Afterwards, however, 
when Audubon proposed to present this canvas to King 
George, the artist assured him that this picture was 
worth 300 guineas and that it was too good to be given 
away; if offered to the King, no doubt, said he, "it 
would be accepted and placed in his collections, but you 
would receive no benefit from the gift." According to 
a later record, this canvas was sold to Mr. John Hep- 
penstall of Sheffield; whether it was ever delivered, or 
not, I do not know, but either the original or a copy, 
here reproduced, now forms the central figure in the 
large Audubon collection in the American Museum of 
Natural History in New York, and is an excellent illus- 
tration of the elaborate and ambitious character of 
Audubon's larger compositions. These fortunate wind- 
falls came none too soon, for to follow the journal: 

Mr. Havell had already called to say that on Saturday I 
must pay him sixty pounds. I was then not only not worth a 
penny, but had actually borrowed five pounds a few days be- 
fore to purchase materials for my pictures. But these pic- 


















tures which Sir Thomas sold for me enabled me to pay my 
borrowed money, and to appear full-handed when Mr. Havell 
called. Thus I passed the Rubicon. 

This was before the reform of the penal laws in Eng- 
land, when it seems to have been hard for a man to 
escape hanging, not to speak of being sent to prison 
for debt, the chief terror of life in certain circles. 
There were 223 capital offenses, and in 1829 in the 
city of London alone 7,114 persons were sent to the 
debtors' prison. 8 

Without the sale of his pictures in the summer of 
1827, Audubon felt that he must certainly have become 
a bankrupt, yet he was periodically displeased with the 
results of his efforts in oil colors, and resolved to "spoil 
no more canvas" but to draw "in my usual old untaught 
way, which is what God meant me to do" ; "I can draw," 
he continues, "but I shall never paint well." In the 
fall of 1828, however, he was again working in oils, 
and produced four large pieces, one of which was called 
"The Eagle and the Lamb," and two others which were 
doubtless variations of his "Pheasant" and "Otter" pic- 
tures. "It is charity," said the artist, "to speak the 
truth to a man who knows the poverty of his talents, 
and wishes to improve; it is villainous to mislead him, 
by praising him to his face, and laughing at his work 
as they go down the stairs of his house." Sir Thomas 
Lawrence had praised some of these pictures and had 
promised to select one for exhibition at Somerset House. 
As regards "The Eagle and the Lamb," which Audu- 
bon hoped would go to Windsor Castle, William 
Swainson would give no opinion; the same canvas, of 

8 See Sir Walter Besant, London in the Nineteenth Century (London, 


else a replica, was in possession of the Audubon family 
in 1898. 9 

On December 14, 1827, Audubon wrote that, acting 
upon the advice of Mr. Maury, the American consul 
at London, he had presented a copy of his Birds to 
John Quincy Adams, the President of the United 
States, and another, through Henry Clay, to the Ameri- 
can Congress; in order that the latter should be as 
perfect as possible, Havell was asked to do the color- 
ing himself, but these proposed gifts do not appear to 
have been executed. 10 

New Year's, 1828, found the naturalist in Man- 
chester, where but a few days before he had received 
the fifth and last number of his plates for 1827 and 
expressed himself well pleased with it. While return- 
ing to London by coach, he consented to take a hand 
at cards to accommodate his fellow passengers, but 
declined to play for money; "I never play," he con- 
fessed, "unless obliged to by circumstances; I feel no 
pleasure in the game, and long for other occupation." 
"I missed my snuff," he added, and whenever his hands 
went into his pockets in search of the box, he "discov- 
ered the strength of habit thus acting without thought"; 
but he remembered a resolution he had formed to give 
up the habit and stuck to it for a time at least ; doubt- 
less, like his later friend, John Bachman, he reformed 
more than once, for in a letter to Victor Audubon, of 
November 5, 1846, Bachman added this postscript: 
"To Audubon : The snuff— the snuff, it is here ! I have 
just taken a pinch, and the ladies have blown you up- 
sky-high, for teaching me such a bad practice; I say, 

•See Maria R. Audubon, Audubon and his Journals (Bibl. No. 86), 
vol. i, p. 342, where the "Eagle and the Lamb" is reproduced. 
10 See Vol. I, p. 436. 


however, that you beat me all to pieces in that art." 
The first winter in London dragged heavily for the 
naturalist, who exclaimed in January, 1828: "How 
long am I to be confined in this immense jail"; when 
Daniel Lizars reported from Edinburgh the loss of four 
of his subscribers, he writes, "I am dull as a beetle. 
Why do I dislike London? Is it because the constant 
evidence of the contrast between the rich and the poor 
is a constant torment to me, or is it because of its size 
and crowd? I know not, but I long for sights and 
sounds of a different nature," such, we might add, as 
the flocks of wild duck which were occasionally seen 
from Regent's Park as they passed over the city and 
made him more homesick than ever. Audubon 
hated the city quite as cordially as Charles Lamb ever 
affected to detest the country, and when leaving it ? 
afoot or by stage, it seemed as if he could never be 
rid of it. "What a place is London," he would say, but 
naively add: "many persons live there solely because 
they like it." 

On February 4, 1828, Audubon was elected to mem- 
bership in the Linnaean Society, and in November he 
presented it with a copy of his work, which was then 
well under way. This was noticed in a letter to Swain- 
son, written on November 7, when no acknowledgment 
of the gift had then been received; and he mentioned 
also the sale of his picture of "Blue Jays" for ten 
guineas. At a meeting of the Linnaean Society not 
long after his election, copies of Selby's Illustrations of 
British Ornithology and of his own work were placed 
side by side for inspection, and "very unfair compari- 
sons were drawn between the two"; had Selby, Audu- 
bon reflected, been given "the same opportunities that 
my curious life has granted me, his work would have 


been far superior to mine"; "I supported him," he 
added, "to the best of my power." 

Revision of his older drawings demanded much of 
Audubon's attention during these years. On February 
10, 1828, he began the Whiteheaded Eagle (No. 7, 
Plate xxxi) , the original of which had been procured on 
the Mississippi, where the bird was represented as din- 
ing on a wild goose; now, he said, "I shall make it 
breakfast on a catfish, the drawing of which is also with 
me, with the marks of the talons of another eagle, which 
I disturbed on the banks of the same river, driving him 
from his prey." On the 16th of that month he was 
engaged with this drawing from seven in the morning 
until half after four, stopping only to take the glass of 
milk which his landlady would bring to him. This plate 
was engraved in the following April, and on May 1, 
1828, a first proof was sent to the Marquis of Lands- 
downe, president of the Zoological Society, as a mark 
of appreciation by its author, who had become a member 
of that body in the preceding winter. 

A striking characteristic of Audubon's work was its 
diversity, produced not only by attractive embellish- 
ments of many kinds, but by the moving force and 
action with which he ever sought to vitalize his sub- 
jects. It is therefore not surprising that he was nettled 
by an incident like this : 

February 28. To-day I called by appointment on the Earl 
of Kinnoul, a small man, with a face like the caricature of an 
owl; he said he had sent for me to tell me all my birds mere 
alike, and he considered my work a swindle. He may really 
think this; his knowledge is probably small; but it is not the 
custom to send for a gentleman to abuse him in one's house. I 
heard his words, bowed, and without speaking, left the rudest 
man I have met in this land. 


Audubon had not yet visited the great university 
towns of England, the support of which he knew would 
be a valuable asset, and on March 3, 1828, he set out 
by stage for Cambridge. His driver, he remarked, 
"held confidances with every grog-shop between Lon- 
don and Cambridge, and his purple face gave powerful 
evidences that malt liquor [was] more enticing to him 
than water." His reception at Cambridge was hearty; 
he was entertained by Professors Sedgwick, Whewell, 
and Henslow, dined repeatedly "in Hall" with the dons, 
and received the subscription of the librarian of the 
University. It is interesting to recall that young 
Charles Darwin, "the man who walks with Henslow," 
as some of the dons called him, was then an undergrad- 
uate at King's College, and that thirty-one years were 
to pass before modern biology was born in 1859, the 
year of the appearance of the epoch-making Origin of 

By the 15th of March Audubon was again in Lon- 
don, and on the 24th he started for Oxford. Dr. 
Williams, as he noted in his journal, subscribed for his 
Birds in favor of the Radcliffe Library, as did also Dr. 
Kidd for the Anatomical School; but, though hospita- 
bly treated by all, not one of the twenty-four colleges 
of that great University emulated their example, and 
the naturalist went away disappointed. 

Upon his return to London in early April, Audubon 
received a call from John C. Loudon, editor of the 
Magazine of Natural History, and was invited to con- 
tribute to that journal. "I declined," he said, "for I 
will never write anything to call down upon me a second 
volley of abuse. I can only write facts, and when I 
write these, the Philadelphians call me a liar." He was 
then chafing under the criticism which his rattlesnake 


stories had produced. 11 On April 6 the persistent Mr. 
Loudon called again and offered Audubon eight 
guineas for an article, only to be again refused. Still 
unwilling to admit defeat, the editor proposed to en- 
gage William Swainson to prepare an extended review 
of the naturalist's work, and in this he succeeded so well 
that Audubon immediately relented and sent him a 
paper. 12 Swainson offered to write the review for a 
copy of the work at its cost price, and Audubon replied 
in the following letter: 13 

Audubon to William Swainson 

London, April 9th 1828. 
My dear Sir, 

Mr. Loudon called on me yesterday and showed me a letter 
from you to him, in which many very flattering expressions re- 
specting myself and my works you are so kind as to offer to 

"See Chapter XXVIII. 

12 The seventh which he had contributed to the scientific press of 
Europe, entitled "Notes on the Bird of Washington (Falco Washing- 
toniana), or Great Sea Eagle," now believed to have been mistaken by 
him for an immature stage of the true "bird of freedom," the White- 
headed Eagle. It was dated "London, April, 1828," and was published 
in Loudon's Magazine for July of that year. See Bibliography, No. 23. 

13 From the originals in possession of the Linnaean Society of London. 
Swainson's scientific correspondence was taken with him to New Zealand, 
where it remained fifty years, until returned by his daughter, who sent 
it to Sir Joseph Hooker; it was finally purchased by a number of Fellows 
of the Society, and presented to its historical collections. It consists of 
934 letters written by 236 correspondents, from 1806 to 1840. Of the 
24 letters written by Audubon, and dated 9 April, 1829, to 11 January, 
1838, none has been previously published. Dr. Albert Gunther, who has 
given a summary of their contents (Proceedings of the Linncean Society, 
112th Session, 1900; Bibliography, No. 204) found them rather disappoint- 
ing, since they dealt mainly with personal and domestic matters, and 
were written in a style characterized as "fantastic and unnatural." 
Through the kindness of my esteemed friend, George E. Bullen, Esq., 
of the Hertfordshire County Museum, St. Albans, and through the 
courtesy of the Council of the Linnaean Society and its secretary, Dr. 
Daydon Jackson, I am able to reproduce transcripts of the most inter- 
esting of these letters, which readers in America will, I believe, find 
interesting because of their personal details. I am indebted also for 
their good offices to John Hopkinson, F.L.S., and to William Rowan, Esq. 


review the latter so as to have your opinion in writting in time 
for the first no. of the magazine that will appear next month. — 
you also desire that I should send you a sett of the works as far 
as publishing which you wish to keep provided I will let you 
have it at the price it costs me. I assure you my Dear Sir, that 
was I to take you at your word it would be a sore bargain for 
you as the a/m would be very nearly double that for which it 
is sold to my subscribers. — therefore you will permit me to 
alter your offer and to say that if it suits you to pay 35 
shillings per number I will be contented ; I would be still more 
so was I rich enough to present it to you. — 

It is the only set on hand at present except one which I 
must have to exhibit. — 

The answer respecting the Shrieke [Shrike] has I hope met 
with your wishes. — 

Ever since I became acquainted with our mutual friend Dr. 
Fraill [Traill] I have had a great desire to see and speak to 
you & I regret that I never have had an opportunity. My time 
is so completely taken up that it is with difficulty that I can 
enjoy a day's rest- — Should you come to town pray call on me 
when I may have the pleasure of shaking your hand and to as- 
sure you verbally that I am truly and sincerely 

yours ob e st 

John J. Audubon 
95 Great Russell St. 

Bedford Sq. 

Thus began an intimate friendship between William 
Swainson and John James Audubon which lasted until 
1830, and their intercourse did not wholly cease before 

From the context of the nine letters which are here reproduced with- 
out change, it is evident that Audubon paid little attention to grammar, 
syntax, or orthography, but if the reader will compare the letters written 
before and after 1830, or before and after his first serious discipline in 
English composition (see Chapters XXIII and XXIX), he will find marked 
improvement in all these respects. 











3*^* Are*-** m <£i~uu, + ~- <g *^ r^ 



From the Deane MSS. 

1838. In his use of English at this time Audubon 
was not far behind Swainson, whose mother tongue it 
was. Swainson, according to Dr. Giinther, was "ex- 
tremely careless in orthography and loose in his style 
of writing: he persistently misspelt not only technical 
terms, but also the names of foreign authors, and even 
of some of his familiar friends and correspondents; he 


knew no other language but his own, and the applica- 
tion of Latin and Greek for the purpose of systematic 
nomenclature was a constant source of error." 

At this time Swainson was living in semi-retirement 
at a farmstead of considerable size, called "Highfield 
Hall," 14 near Tyttenhanger Green, a small settlement, 
off the highroad, two miles southeast of the historic 
town of St. Albans, in Hertfordshire ; though his letters 
were always dated from "The Green" at Tyttenhanger, 
his associations were with the more considerable village 
of London Colney, but a mile to the south, on the road 
to Barnet. Audubon had brought a letter of intro- 
duction from Dr. Traill, a valiant champion of Swain- 
son at Edinburgh, but was unable to go to the country 
to deliver it. Swainson, however, attended promptly 
to the review, and on April 11, 1828, sent it to Mr. 
Loudon, who published it in the May number of his 
Magazine. 15 

Swainson's review was extremely laudatory, and 
Audubon reproduced extracts from it in later editions 
of his "Prospectus." To quote a characteristic para- 
graph, he said that the naturalist's ornithological papers 

14 Swainson's house has been kindly identified by my friend, Mr. George 
E. Bullen, to whom I am indebted also for an interesting photograph, 
taken from an old print. Mrs. Swainson, who died February 12, 1835, 
was buried in the parish church, with which she was closely identified, 
at London Colney, and a tablet to her memory is still to be seen there. 
Swainson probabiy preferred the historic associations of Tyttenhanger, a 
name originally applied to the manor and manor house of the Abbot of 
St. Albans, a famous abbey property acquired before the Conquest, with 
a history extending over six hundred years, but he did not live there. 
The oldest resident now on the spot, a man over ninety, told Mr. Bullen 
that as a boy he often collected butterflies, moths and other specimens 
of natural history which he took to "Highfield Hall," and was always 
paid by one of the Swainson children. Since Swainson's time the original 
house, which was approached by a long walk, has become almost un- 
recognizable, having received an addition to one side; the grass land which 
then surrounded it has been converted into beautiful lawns. 

15 See Bibliography, No. 95. 


printed in one of the Scotch journals, are as valuable to the 
scientific world, as they are delightful to the general reader. 
They give us a rich foretaste of what we may hope and expect 
from such a man. There is a freshness and an originality 
about these essays, which can only be compared to the animated 
biographies of Wilson. . . . To represent the passions and the 
feelings of birds, might, until now, have been well deemed chi- 
merical. Rarely, indeed, do we see their outward forms repre- 
sented with any thing like nature. In my estimation, not more 
than three painters ever lived who could draw a bird. Of these 
the lamented Barrabaud [Barraband], of whom France may 
be justly proud, was the chief. He has long passed away; but 
his mantle has at length been recovered in the forests of 

Audubon spent four days with Swainson and his 
family at Tyttenhanger, from May 28 to June 1, 1828, 
when they talked birds and made drawings; Audubon 
also showed Swainson "how to put up birds in his style, 
which delighted him." The friendship between these 
men, though very intimate while it lasted, received a 
sudden check two years later, when Audubon was about 
to publish the letterpress to his plates, as will be related 
farther on. 1G 

Though his hands were already more than full at 
this time, Audubon seems to have played with the idea 
of publishing a work on the birds of Great Britain, but 
on May 1 he wrote to Swainson that the plan did not 
meet with favor, and later he relinquished all claims in 
such a project to his assistant, William MacGillivray. 17 

In the spring of 1828 Audubon began to think of 
returning to the United States, to renew or revise his 
drawings and extend his researches. "I am sure," he 

16 See Chapter XXIX. 
"See Vol. II, p. 130. 


said, "that now I could make better compositions, and 
select better plants than when I drew mainly for amuse- 
ment." In order to raise the necessary funds, he re- 
sorted again to picture painting, his never failing re- 
source, and worked in oil colors daily from morning light 
until dusk, unless called to Havell's to decide some ques- 
tion of necessary detail. The following letters to 
Swainson shed further light on this work and on the 
progress of The Birds of America, the eighth number of 
which was published early in July: 

Audubon to William Swainson 

London, July 1st 1828. 
My dear Sir. — 

I have been expecting to have the pleasure of seeing you for 
upwards of a week, having mentioned in your last note that 
you intended spending a couple of days in London before the 
end of June. — When are you coming? — the beautifull lamb 
came quite safe and is now on the canvas (in efigy) for ages to 
come — I bought a superb Golden Eagle from Mr. Cross that 

also has helped to fill it [Here apparently some words 

have been deleted, and it is impossible to read them.] I long 
to shew them to you. — I have finished the picture of the Tur- 
keys, and painted a white headed eagle — in fact I have worked 
from 4 every morning untill dark — but the best news I have 
to tell is ; that I have received 4 letters from my wife, one dated 
2nd of May, all well— but not quite settled about coming before 
the end of summer. I have changed quarters and am now at 
79 Newman Street Oxford Street, in Mr. Havell's house where 
I have taken 3 rooms and feel more comfortable although I 
have not the little piece of ground to walk on. — I imagine the 
country to be now quite beautifull and had I time to spare 
would walk out to see you Mrs S & the dear little folks at 
Tittenhanger Green.— I received a visit on Saturday last of 
the whole of Lord Milton's family who after complimenting the 
author of the "Birds of America" very kindly subscribed for 


two copies of the work. — I have mended my pen — I should have 
sent the Blackwood magazine to you, but I so much expected 
to see you here that it is yet on my table, and will keep it untill 
you come. — All my exertions to procure live grouses have been 
abortive here — I have written to Scotland to a friend and per- 
haps will have some soon. — The 8th number is now printing and 
colouring and will be out this month — the 9th is began. — If you 
are hungry or thirsty when you come to town please make for 
my [here a word is omitted], and I will try to manage matters 
in this way. — May I ask what you are doing? — I saw Dr 
Fraill's [Traill's] son a few days ago — he inquired after your 
son and family. — I expect a copy of Loudon's magazine this 
evening. I feel anxious to see what sort of a cut the Doves 
make, as well as the birds of Washington. — 

With sincerest regards & esteem to yourself and Lady — 
I am yours most truly 

John J. Audubon. 
79 Newman Street, 

Oxford Street. 

Audubon to William Swamson 

Londost Thursday July 1828. 
My dear Mr Swainson, 

Although your last note said that you knew not when I 
should have the pleasure of seeing you in town, I have hoped 
every morning to see you that day. — When will you come? — 
There is a talk of my picture of the Eagle and the Lamb going 
to her Majesty, Sir Walter Waller has been written to on the 
subject and every thing is in train to lead poor I like a lamb to 
Windsor Castle ! — I am told the picture is a grand one but you, 
my dear Sir, have not said so ! When you come I will show you 
13 grouses pretty fairly grouped on one canvas, with seven 
pheasants with a Fox on another, etc. etc. I have worked hard 
this month from 4 p.m. untill 7 a.m. [sic~\ every day — I re- 
gretted that your brother did not come to see me — I have a 
great desire to see you but I cannot at present leave town. — 


My 8th No. is just out. — The 9th & 10th are engraving. — I 
have sent word to my son to land [?] & bring some skins for 
you & perhaps you may have a rare assortment bye and bye. — 
I hope your Lady and dear Children are all quite well Pray re- 
member me kindly to them. 1 wish to name a bird after 

you in the 1st No. of 1829 & wish you to choose a name. 
Believe yours ever and truly obliged 

J. J. Audubon 
79 Newman Street, 
Oxford Street. 

By the 9th of August eight pictures had been be- 
gun, but none was finished, and the number of his sub- 
scribers had fallen to seventy. At about this time Cap- 
tain Basil Hall ls returned from his journey through 
the United States, and brought direct news from Victor 
Audubon, who was then at Louisville, from Dr. Richard 
Harlan and Thomas Sully, to all of whom the natural- 
ist's letters had been delivered the previous year. 
Towards the end of the month Audubon received the 
following note from the secretary of the Zoological So- 
ciety, N. A. Vigors, who was also anxious to obtain 
from him an article for his Journal: 

N. A. Vigors to Audubon 

Bruter Ct 

Aug. 23, 1828. 

My dear Sir : — 

I hope you do not forget your promise of giving us a 
paper for the Zoological Journal. We should be much grati- 
fied by having your name with us : and, if possible, should wish 
to have whatever you may favour us with within the next ten 
days. I have been but a few hours in town, and shall leave 
town again tomorrow for a few days, or I should have called 

la See Note, Vol. I, p. 364. 


upon you to speak personally upon the subject. I believe I 
have already mentioned, that we are in the habit of remu- 
nerating those of our correspondents who wish for payment for 
their labours, at a rate not exceeding £10.10.0 per sheet. 

A letter from you in answer will reach me, if sent to Bruter 
Ct : before Wednesday on which day a parcel will be forwarded 
to me from thence. 

Believe me my dear Sir, 

Yours faithfully, 

N: A: Vigors. 

J. J. Audubon Esq., 
69 Great Russell St. ; 

Newman Street, 

Oxford Street 

Audubon refused this request, saying that "no 
money can pay for abuse," and this time he did not 

Without immediate prospect of seeing his family, 
for neither Mrs. Audubon nor her sons were enthusiastic 
over the proposal that they should go to England, the 
naturalist was momentarily depressed; he turned to 
Swainson for advice, at the same time suggesting that 
they visit Paris together. Audubon wrote in his journal 
for August 16, 1828, that he had invited Swainson to 
accompany him to France, whither his friend had ex- 
pressed a desire to go when the subject had been 
broached at Tyttenhanger ; on the 25th of that month 
he added: "I do not expect much benefit by this trip, 
but I shall be glad to see what may be done." The 
letter just referred to follows: 


Audubon to William Swainson 

London, Wednesday Augt. 13, 1828. 

My dear Me. Swainson, 

I reached my lodging in great comfort by the side of your 
amiable Doc 1 * Davie two hours and a half after we shook hands 
— I wish I might say as much of my Journey through Life. — I 
have had sad news from my dear wife this morning, she has posi- 
tively abandoned her coming to England for some indefinite 
time, indeed she says that she looks anxiously for the day when 
tired myself of this country I will return to mine and live al- 
though a humbler (Public) Life, a much happier one — her 
letter has not raised my already despondent spirits in some- 
things and at the very instant I am writing to you it may per- 
haps be well that no instrument is at hand with which a woeful 
sin might be committed — I have laid aside brushes, thoughts of 
painting and all except the ties of friendship— I am miserable 
just now and you must excuse so unpleasant a letter — Would 
you go to Paris with me? I could go with you any day that 
you would be please to mention, I will remain there as long and 
no longer than may suit your callings — I will go with you to 
Rome or anywhere, where something may be done for either of 
our advantage and to drive off my very great uncomfortable- 
ness of thoughts — My two sons are also very much against com- 
ing to England, a land they say where neither freedom or sim- 
plicity of habits exist and altogether uncongenial to their mode 
of life. — What am I to do? As a man of the World and a man 
possessed of strong unprejudiced understanding I wish that you 
would advise me. — But now on your account I will change the 
subject — I called on Newman two days ago & to the following 
enquiries he gave me yesterday the following answers 
What the price of 
1/2 doz best Pure Lake dowards[?] answer 12/ — 

l/ 2 " " Carmin " " 20/— 

l/ 2 " " UltraMarine " " 84/— 

l/ 2 " " Vermillion " " 6/— 

l/ 2 " " Terra di Verona " " 4/— 


As I thought the above prices enormous I have declined advising 
chalks for you & will await your advent. — 

Should you not feel inclined to go to France at present 
which by the bye is the very best season on account of seeing 
the vintage etc. etc. — please write to me so or come to town 
which would be still more agreeable & talk the matter over as 
I think I would persuade you to absent yourself for a month 
or so — I hope your kind lady continues quite well & your Dear 
Little ones — 

Believe me yours most sincerely 

John J. Audubon. 
Please write by return of Post — 
79 Newman Street 
Oxford Street. 

On this journey to Paris Audubon was accompanied 
by Mr. and Mrs. Swainson and an American artist, 
named Parker, who had been at work on a portrait of 
the naturalist in oils. For Audubon it was mainly a 
canvassing tour ; Parker hoped to obtain orders for por- 
traits, and Swainson, new ornithological material at the 
great museum in the Jardin des Plantes, for a work 
upon which he was then engaged. 19 

The party set out on the 1st of September, travel- 
ing by way of Dover and Boulogne, and reached Paris 
on Thursday, September 4. They alighted at the Mes- 
sagerie Royale, Rue des Victoires, and, after looking 
up lodgings, went at once to the Jardin des Plantes to 
pay their respects to Cuvier. The Museum of Natural 
History was closed, but they knocked and asked for the 
Baron. "He was in," said Audubon, in the journal of 
his Paris experience, 

19 Fauna Boreali- Americana; or the Zoology of the northern parts of 
British America; Part Second, "The Birds;" by William Swainson and 
John Richardson (London, 1831). 


but, we were told, too busy to be seen. Being determined to 
look at the great man, we waited, knocked again, and with a 
certain degree of firmness sent in our names. The messenger 
returned, bowed, and led the way up stairs, where in a minute 
Monsieur the Baron, like an excellent good man, came to us; 
he had heard of my friend Swainson and greeted him as he 
deserves to be greeted ; he was polite and kind to me, though 
my name had never made its way to his ears. I looked at him, 
and here follows the result: age about sixty-five; size corpulent, 
five feet five, English measure; head large; face wrinkled and 
brownish; eyes gray, brilliant and sparkling; nose aquiline, 
large and red ; mouth large, with good lips ; teeth few, blunted 
by age, excepting one on the lower jaw, measuring nearly 
three-quarters of an inch square. 20 

They were immediately invited to dine on the follow- 
ing Saturday at six o'clock, and later saw Cuvier at his 
home, at his Museum, and at the Academy of Sciences, 
over which he presided. 

Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire pleased Audubon greatly 
and proved to him by his conversation that he under- 
stood perfectly the difference between the French and 
the English. The Duke of Orleans, who then occupied 
the Palais Royal, seemed to him the finest physical type 
of man he had ever met. "He had my book brought 
up," said the naturalist, "and helped me untie the strings 
and arrange the table, and began by saying that he felt 
great pleasure in subscribing to the work of an Ameri- 
can, for he had been most kindly received in the United 
States and should never forget it." When the plate of 
the Baltimore Orioles was held up to view, the Duke 
exclaimed: "This surpasses all I have seen, and I am 
not astonished now at the eulogiums of M. Redoute." 
He conversed in both English and French, had much 

20 Maria R. Audubon, op. cit., vol. i, p. 306. 


to say of American cities and rivers, and added: 'You 
are a great nation, a wonderful nation." The Duke 
wrote his name in Audubon's subscription book, prom- 
ised to try to enlist a number of the crowned heads of 
Europe in his behalf, and gave him besides a number 
of orders for pictures of animals. 

Audubon had already made friends with the veteran 
painter of flowers, Pierre Joseph Redoute, and when 
it was proposed that they should exchange works, the 
"Raphael of Flowers" consented, gave Audubon at once 
nine numbers of his Belles Fleurs, and promised to send 
"Les Roses." 

During this visit of eight weeks Parker painted por- 
traits of both Cuvier and Redoute; Swainson worked 
steadily at the Museum, where Isidore Geoffroy Saint- 
Hilaire gave him the use of his private study; while 
Audubon, for the most part, was driving from post to 
pillar in his not altogether successful efforts to extend 
his subscription list. As already intimated, his greatest 
success in Paris was in winning the friendship and en- 
dorsement of Cuvier, who reported upon his work at a 
meeting of the Royal Academy of Sciences held on 
September 22. 21 Audubon has related how on this occa- 
sion he had an appointment to meet the Baron in the 
library of the Institute at precisely half past one 
o'clock; he waited; the hall filled, and the clock ticked 
on, but the great savant did not appear. Finally, said 
Audubon, after an hour had passed, "all at once I heard 
his voice, and saw him advancing, very warm and ap- 
parently fatigued. He met me with many apologies, 
and said, 'Come with me' ; and as we walked along, he 
explaining all the time why he had been late, while his 
hand drove a pencil with gre at rapidity, and he told me 

21 See Vol. I, p. 3. 




that he was actually now writing the report on my 
work! 1 " 22 Cuvier's published report, which was ex- 
tremely laudatory, showed little signs of haste. After 
speaking of Audubon's talents and accomplishments he 

The execution of these plates, so remarkable for their size, 
seems to us equally successful in the drawing, the engraving, 
and coloring, and though it may be difficult to represent relief 
in a colored print with as much effect as in painting proper, 
this is no disadvantage in works on natural history ; natural- 
ists prefer the true color of objects to those accidental shades 
which result from the diverse inflections of light ; necessary 
though these be for completing the truth of a picture, they are 
foreign as well as prejudicial to scientific accuracy. 23 

By November Audubon was once more in London, 
busy at painting to fill his orders and his purse. On 
the 11th of the month, we find Swainson, whose own 
exchequer was empty, writing to Audubon for a loan; 
this letter, and one soon to follow, illustrate some of the 
characteristics to which we have referred: 

William Swainson to Audubon 

Tuesday 11 Nov. 1828. 

I had written the enclosed, my dear Mr. Audubon, before 
"your letter of Monday reached me. It has come this instant, 
Dreams, you know, must always be interpreted contrawise, we 
might have lifted up our arms, as you saw in your dream but, 
if you had not awoke, it was no doubt to have shaken hands ! 
But that my regard for you may be evinced, I will bring myself 
to lay under an obligation, which I would only ask for one of 
my own family. I was that moment thinking to which I should 

1 Maria R. Audubon, op. cit., vol. i, p. 323. 
1 See Bibliography, No. 93a. 


write, to ask the loan of 80 £ for a few months, and now I 
will ask it of you. If you was aware of the peculiar feelings 
which we Englishmen have on such occasions, perhaps you 
would smile, but so it is that we never ask any one, from whom 
we have the least idea of a refusal. Now, did I not believe 
you to be a sincere friend, do you imagine I should have told 
you I was in want of Money much less have asked you to lend 
me some. The fact is, I have suffered a severe loss during my 
being in Paris, what little I had on hand has been spent there 
and in making preparations for the publication of my Zool. 
Illustrations. Two or three months however, hard work will 
bring me round again & repay you. 

Let me see your letter to the President of the Zool. Soc. 
before it goes, and you shall see mine. 

I shall be most thankful for the Grouse. I send 2 draw- 
ings to Havell to be engraved spur him on for I want to have 
every thing ready before the new year. 

Yours most sincerely, 


John J. Audubon, Esq. 
79 Newman St. 

In December the Swainsons invited Audubon to 
dine with them at Christmas; in his letter Swainson 

Why are you so sad? I would lay ten shillings that old 
Havell has been disappointing you as he has done me. He is 
in matters of business a complete dandle — an old woman, and 
I have done with him. His son I think better of he has a good 
idea of punctuality in business. ... In one of your walks I 
hope you have thought about the French Wine that we talked 
so much about and have ascertained the particulars from your 
friend, so that we may order a cask. I hope you have not mis- 
taken the price, — for if not, nothing that can be drank in this 
country is one half as cheap. 


In the following letter Swainson refers to the second 
series of his Zoological Illustrations, 2i the sale of which 
was irritating him, and to N. A. Vigors, with whom he 
had entered upon a notorious controversy in 1828: 

William Swainson to Audubon 

18 January, 1829. 

My Dear Mr. Audubon, 

I write this in utter uncertainty whether it will find you in 
London. My first number has now been out three weeks — it 
has been seen and universally admired, and how many copies 
do you think the Publisher has sold? now pray guess as the 
Americans say. 100 — no. twentyfive, no. fifteen, no. ten? yes. 
positively ten copies and no more, has been sold. I blush almost 
to confess this mortification to even, you, but so it is. Now, 
my dear Sir, what am I to think of. the "generally diffused 
taste," as the phrase is, for Natural History. 

This allthough vexing to me, may be a consolation to you, 
who are able to exhibit on what I call your Red Book the names 
of a good portion of 150 subscribers to a 200 guinea Book. 
Think yourself my friend exceedingly well off. 

The amount of sale must be kept silent, it would be a nice 
nut to crack for V [igors]. & his friends. 

I shall be able to do without the water birds, if you have 
not found any. 

I have had a most extraordinary letter from Waterton, 
which will highly amuse you. The man is mad — stark, staring 


Yours very faith'ly 

W. Swainson. 
Can you tell me any safe expeditions made of sending and 
receiving letters and Parcels from Philadelphia. 

J. J. Audubon Esq. 

79 Newman St. 

Oxford St. 

24 The three volumes of this series hear date of 1832-33, but the 
preface is inscribed "Tittenhanger Green St. Albans, 24 th July, 1829." 


Early in 1829 Bonaparte wrote from Rome, where 
he had then settled, and the following letter shows that 
he had then heard of Audubon's visit to France, and 
was keenly interested in his success: 

Charles L. Bonaparte to Audubon 

Rome January 10 th 1829. 
Dear Sir 

I received in due time your favours of November 3d. & De- 
cember 21 st. & now come to thank you for them, wishing you 
or rather expressing to you at the occasion of the renewal of 
the year, the warm wishes I constantly have for your health, 
happiness & especially for the success of your work. From the 
contents of your letter I clearly perceive that one at least of 
my letters to you must have miscarried. Nothing could be 
more interesting to me than the narrative of your journey to 
France, though I had heard from other quarters the good & 
well deserved reception you met with. Your letter of August 
W th. never came at hand, & it must have been the same with 
at least one of mine to you. What you mention about Tem- 
minck quite astonishes me! ... I thought he would have un- 
dertaken even a journey to see you & your drawings ! ! ! Please 
let me know when you write whether the Ornithological Illus- 
trations of Jardine, Vigors & Co are stopped or still going 
on. — The animals I spoke to you of were reported as deliv- 
ered to you by Mr Gray of the British Museum who had re- 
ceived them for me from the U. States. Is it not so? . . . 
Corvus Cornix with us is very fond of the sea shore & feeds 
occasionally on fish, but I never observed it had the singular 
habits of C. ossifragus at least as described by Wilson. 

I am surprized at Messrs J B's conduct; I have always 
found them extremely kind and well disposed towards me; &• 
although we have settled our accounts I had no reason to be- 
lieve they would refuse our box. However we can do without 
their interference quite as well, & I hope you have already for- 
warded the box to Leghorn recommending it to the care of my 






From the Howland MSS. 

agent in that port. Messrs F. & A. Filuchs.( ?) I shall keep a 
good lookout for it being extremely anxious to see your new 
number. I should never have done if I was [to] repeat [to] 
you all the praise given to your work b}' our Italian artists & 
men of science ! . . . I shall merely state that on my part I 
prefer the plate of Goldfinches to any other, birds and plants, 
being life itself; & that I am most anxious to see Astur Stan- 
leyi which I strongly suspect to be my Falco Cooperii. . . . 
By this time, however you may have been able to ascertain the 
fact . . . please let me know how the thing stands. It is only 


by your letter that I hear of my work (2d) being in London: 
I have not yet seen a copy myself nor did I know positively that 
it had been published. You must surely have received one 
from myself at all events, for I directed Messrs Gay & Lea to 
let you have one of the very first out. Let me know whether 
you have it & your opinion about it. — I think you are right in 
going to Russia, especially as in giving them the American 
Birds you will probably give us the Russians, some of which 
are hardly known. Try to get for me Pyrrhula longicauda, P. 
rosea & Scalopax — thalina, the latter especially. I shall not 
loose sight of the portrait, but it will be still more difficult to get 
the signature. I will however endeavor from some of my rela- 
tions. You were right in supposing me "dans les bras de la 
paix & le bonheur d'un heureux pere de famille" but greatly mis- 
taken to think I was taking "le plaisir des sciences". Settling 
and other cursed worldly affairs have so much taken up my 
time, that I have not looked a specimen or a book since I am 
in Rome . . . my small library itself & my Cabinet have not 
even been arranged & I tremble to find all my birds destroyed 
when the happy day will come to look into them. In the mean 
time an addition has been made six weeks ago to my small fam- 
ily. I have another son who has received the names of Lucien 
Louis Joseph Napoleon & better than that who is the porthrait 
of health itself. I am sure you will divide my happiness & 
excuse my delay in answering you principally on that account. 
I am in debt with half the scientific world & this has been the 
first letter I scratched since I am in Rome ! . . . I hope to be 
more regular & less in a hurry in future . . . though God 
knows ! . . . I will not however close this letter without men- 
tionaing the pleasure I had the other day in getting you a 
new subscriber & that among the English themselves. ! The 
Earl of Shrewsbury & his good Lady highly admired your work 
the other day at my house & were so pleased with it that they 
said they would write immediately to add their name to the list. 
The Earl of Shrewsbury is as you know the first Earl of Great 
Britain a catholic & what is more to you a man of great taste. 
His not having heard of your work shows that you have not 


made enough noise about it: & I am sure his name will be 
followed by a great many others to which Mr. Chapittar (Lord 
Shrewsb. friend) has promised me to show the work & deliver 
the prospectuses. Did you hear of the death of poor Mr 
Barnes killed by a stag ( ?). It is a great loss for the Queen. 
I remain, Dear Sir, begging you the London news 

your most obliged friend 

Charles L. Bonaparte. 
[Addressed] Mr. J. J. Audubon 

79 Newman Street 
Oxford St. 


[Endorsed] Answered Feby. 8 th. 1829. 

J. J. A. 

Audubon continued to work on his paintings dur- 
ing the winter of 1828-9, hoping to put his affairs in 
such order that he might be able to start for America 
in the following year. 



Audubon settles for a time in Camden — Paints in a fisherman's cottage 
by the sea — With the lumbermen in the Great Pine Woods — Work 
done — Visits his sons — Joins his wife at St. Francisville — Record of 
journey south — Life at "Beechgrove" — Mrs. Audubon retires from 
teaching — Their plans to return to England — Meeting with President 
Jackson and Edward Everett. 

Audubon laid his plans to visit America in 1829 
with unusual care, and was fortunate in being able to 
entrust his publication to the competent hands of John 
George Children, of the British Museum. This was 
to be actually his third voyage to the United States, 
but it was the first which he made from English soil, 
and after he had become known as an ornithologist and 
animal painter. He wished to renew at least fifty of his 
earlier drawings and to obtain new materials of every 
description. Although he was naturally anxious to see 
his wife, from whom he had been absent for nearly three 
years, and his boys, the elder of whom had been left 
at Shippingport five years before, he felt constrained 
to devote to his work every moment that could be spared. 

When writing to his wife of his difficulties and pros- 
pects at this period, he assured her that he would act 
cautiously, with all due diligence and sobriety, and con- 
tinued : 

Thou art quite comfortable in Louisiana, I know; there- 
fore wait there with a little patience. I hope the end of this 
year will see me under headway sufficient to have thee with 



me in comfort here, and I need not tell thee I long for thee 
every hour I am absent from thee. If I fail, America will still 
be my country, and thou, I will still feel, my friend. I will 
return to both and forget forever the troubles and expenses 
I have had ; when walking together, arm in arm, we can see 
our sons before us, and listen to the mellow sounding thrush, 
so plentiful in our woods of magnolia. 1 

A little later in 1829 he also wrote: "I have finished 
the two first years of publication, the two most difficult 
to be encountered." At that time he fully expected 
that fourteen years would be required for the comple- 
tion of his task, owing to the many difficulties experi- 
enced, especially in securing competent workmen, as 
well as the necessity of distributing the expense for the 
benefit of his subscribers. 

When Havell had been provided with all the draw- 
ings needed for the remainder of the year 1829 and the 
first issue of 1830, Audubon sailed from Portsmouth on 
the 1st of April, 1829, in the packet ship Columbia, 
which reached New York on the opening day of May. 
"I chose the ship," he said, "on account of her name, and 
paid thirty pounds for my passage." 

He paused in New York to exhibit his drawings 
at the Lyceum of Natural History, of which he had 
become a member in 1824, but soon hurried to Phila- 
delphia, and finally settled down for work at Camden, 
in New Jersey, later known to fame as the home of 
"the good gray poet." There, at a boarding house kept 
by a Mr. Armstrong, he remained three weeks, from 
about May 23 to June 13, hunting and painting every 
day. From Camden he went to Great Egg Harbor, 
then a famous resort of both land and water birds in 
great variety, and for three weeks more he lived and 

!Mary F. Bradford, Audubon (Bibl. No. 85). 


worked in a fisherman's cabin by the sea. It is interest- 
ing to recall that Alexander Wilson, in company with 
George Ord, had spent a month at this point in the 
spring of 1813. 

The following letter 2 from Swainson was probably 
the one to which Audubon replied from New Jersey on 
September 14: 

William Swainson to Audubon 

My dear Mr. Audubon 

I welcomed the news of your arrival in America yesterday, 
and as I am making up a packet for Liverpool today, I seize the 
opportunity of wishing you joy and happiness in the new world. 
I am surprised and disappointed as not receiving one line 
from Ward it is at the best negligent, and somewhat ungrate- 
ful. Hope you have begun your studies among the birds on 
a better plan than formerly, that is, in preserving the skins 
of every one on which there is the least doubt whether the 
bird is young or old, particularly the former. If you are to 
give scientific descriptions and definitions of the species 
this precaution is absolutely necessary. What your Amer- 
icans do with their money I know not, Mr. Lea tells me 
he cannot procure one purchaser for my new Illustrations : 
here it is now going on very well. 

You asked me what you can do for me in America. I will 
tell you. Send me a cart load of shells from the Ohio, or from 
any of the Rivers near New Orleans. The very smallest, as well 
as the very largest — all sizes. I have been long expecting those 
which your son promised you for me near twelve months ago ! 
but I have heard nothing of them! you may spend a few dol- 
lars for me and send people to fish the shells at the dry sea- 
son, when the waters are low, that is the best time. 

Things go on here much as usual, but I have not been in 
London since Xmas. The first volume, containing the Quad- 
published originally by Ruthven Deane (Bibl. No. 218), The Auk, 
vol. xxii, 1905. 


rupeds, of Dr. Richardson's work, is out. I am now busy in 
preparing the second, which contains the Birds. Let me par- 
ticularly direct your attention to the manners of the Cedar 
Bird, Ampelis Americana. I suspect it feeds much on Insects 
in default of fruit, but what is desirable, is to know the way 
in which it captures Insects, whether as a flycatcher ie. by 
seizing them on the wing, or like the Gold crest — by picking 
them up among the branches or leaves. I am now in close 
correspondance with Charles Bonaparte, & a most valuble cor- 
respondant he is. 

Mrs. Swainson is just recovering from her confinement af- 
ter giving me another little son I am happy today they are 
both going on well. 

Wilson I believe mentions two birds very like the Red eyed 
Flycatcher, this is a point deserving your attention, but the 
manners of these birds are much more important. I feel con- 
vinced there are several species of my Genus Amrnodramus 
shore finch, in the So. States, they all have narrow pointed tails, 
like the seasidefinch of Wilson. I further suspect there is more 
than one species confounded with the Towee Buntling. 

I hope soon again to hear more fully from you, and of your 
ornithological acquisitions. The dear little ones are quite 

Yours very sincerely, 

Wm. Swainson 

The Green 26 June 1829. 
Mr. John J. Audubon 
care of 

Mess. Thomas E. Walker & Co. 

New York [Philadelphia] 

On the 4th of July Audubon returned to Phila- 
delphia and prepared for a longer sojourn in the Great 
Pine Forest, or Great Pine Swamp, as it was sometimes 
called, in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. In 


this letter to his son we shall find an account of his 
plans and accomplishments: 

Audubon to his son, Victor 

Philadelphia, July 5 th., 1829. 
My dear Victor: — 

I have been in America two months this day, and not a 
word from you have I had in answer to my several letters, dated 
New York, and at this place. I am also without answer from 
your Mama, but do not feel so surprised as I know that about 
2 months is the time necessary to have a return from Louisi- 

I have come to take your Mama over to England, if her 
wish inclines her to do so, and have wrote fully to her, giving 
her all the particulars respecting my situation that I thought 
could possibly be trusted to a letter. 

I have also come to America to redraw some of my earliest 
productions, and am now closely engaged at this. I remained 
near this city for 3 weeks, and since have spent 3 more at 
Great Egg Harbour, from which place I returned yesterday. 
I have already 13 drawings by me. I have letters from Lon- 
don, up to 30 th. April, when all my business was going ^n 
well with an increase of 4 subscribers. I have no news to 
transmit; on the contrary, I was in hopes that ere this I 
should have had at least one long letter from you. I beg you 
will write me when you last heard from your Mama. Direct 
your letter to the care of Messrs Thos. E. Walker, & Co, mer- 
chants here, who know all my movements, and will see anything 
forwarded to wherever I may choose to go to. 

I hope your uncle Berthoud & family are all well; present 
them my best regards, and to all others who may feel inter- 
ested in my welfare, and believe me 

your affectionate father, 

John J. Audubon. 

I have bought a good gold time-keeper, intended for you, 
and a copy bound, of my work, and wish to know how it can 
be forwarded. God bless you. 


After outfitting himself in Philadelphia, Audubon 
proceeded to Mauch Chunk; his provisions for this jour- 
ney to the forest consisted of a "wooden box containing 
a small stock of linin, drawing-paper, my journal, colors 
and pencils, together with twenty pounds of shot, sev- 
eral flints, a due quantum of cash, my gun 'Tear 
Jacket,' and a heart as true to nature as ever." From 
Mauch Chunk he traveled fifteen miles into the heart 
of the wooded hills, and was received into the family 
of Jedediah Irish, lumberman and philosopher, whose 
praise was celebrated in a later "Episode." 3 "What 
pleasure," said the naturalist, "I had in listening to 
him, as he read his favourite poems of Burns, while my 
pencil was occupied in smoothing and softening the 
drawing of the bird before me. Was this not enough 
to recall to my mind the early impressions that had been 
made upon it by the description of the golden age, which 
I here found realized?" 

During his stay in the forest Audubon paid par- 
ticular attention to the smaller land birds, such as 
finches, warblers and flycatchers, and many of the orig- 
inal drawings which were made in the summer of 1829 
still bear his penciled designations of time and place. 4 

3 See "The Great Pine Swamp," and "Great Egg Harbour," Ornithologi- 
cal Biography (Bibl. No. 2), vol. i, p. 52, and vol. iii, p. 606. 

4 Though the year is not usually indicated on the originals, the follow- 
ing drawings probably belong to this period: 

Black Poll Warbler, New Jersey, May. 

Wood Pewee Flycatcher, New Jersey, May. 

Small Green-crested Flycatcher, New Jersey, May. 

Golden-crowned Thrush, New Jersey, May. 

Warbling Flycatcher, Vireo gilvus, New Jersey, May 23. 

Yellow-breasted Chat, New Jersey, June 7. 

Sea Side Finch, Great Egg Harbour, June 14. 

Marsh Wren, New Jersey, June 22. 

Bay-winged Bunting, Great Egg Harbour, June 26. 

Canada Flycatcher, Great Pine Swamp, August 1. 

Pine Swamp Warbler, Great Pine Swamp, August 11. 

Black and Yellow Warblei, Great Pine Swamp, August 12. 


About ten weeks 5 were spent in the woods, from late 
July until the 10th of October, when the naturalist re- 
turned to Philadelphia and settled again for a time in 
Camden. At this period he was enjoying the best of 
health and spirits, and he worked during the entire sea- 
son under the highest pressure of which he was capable. 
At Camden, October 11. 1829, he wrote: 

I am at work, and have done much, but I wish I had eight 
pairs of hands, and another body to shoot the specimens, still 
I am delighted at what I have accumulated in drawings this 
season. Forty-two drawings in four months, eleven large, 
eleven middle size, and twenty-two small, comprising ninety- 
five birds, from Eagles downwards, with plants, nests, flowers, 
and sixty kinds of eggs. 6 I live alone, see scarcely any one, 
besides those belonging to the house where I lodge. I rise long 
before day, and work till night-fall, when I take a walk, and 
to bed. 

At about the middle of October Audubon set out 
to join his family in the South. Crossing the mountains 
by mail-coach to Pittsburgh, where he met his former 
partner in business, Thomas Pears (see p. 254), he de- 
scended once more his favorite river, the Ohio. It was 
no longer necessary to rough it on a flatboat or to sleep 
on a steamer's deck; it was to be "poor Audubon" no 
longer. To be sure, he was not rich, but he had made 
his way and his mark, and the attention which he now 

Hemlock Warbler, Great Pine Swamp, August 12. 

Autumnal Warbler, Great Pine Swamp, August 20. 

Connecticut Warbler, New Jersey, September 22. 

Mottled Owl, New Jersey, October. 
5 Though Audubon said that he spent only six weeks in the forest, 
the indications upon his drawings imply a longer period. 

•At this time Audubon intended to figure, in full size and natural 
colors, the eggs of the "Birds of America," for which the concluding 
numbers of his plates had been reserved, but when the time came, these 
numbers had to be given over to new acquisitions, so the eggs were 
eventuallv crowded out. 


began to receive when traveling in his adopted land 
must have gratified his heart. He paused at Louisville 
to visit his two boys, the elder of whom, Victor, was 
then a clerk in the office of his uncle, William G. Bake- 
well, while John was with another uncle, Nicholas A. 
Berthoud. Hastening on he reached Bayou Sara on 
November 17, where he finally joined his wife, who was 
living at the home of William Garrett Johnson, in West 
Feliciana Parish, near Wakefield. Some account of 
this journey is given in the following letter, 7 written 
on the eighteenth to Dr. Richard Harlan; in the post- 
script Audubon gives the first reference to a new hawk 
which he proposed to name after his friend, and which 
has given no little trouble to ornithologists ever since : 8 

Audubon to Dr. Richard Harlan 

[Superscribed] Rich d Harlan Esq r . M. D. &c &c &c 

Philadelphia Pens a 

S T Francisville Louisiana Novembr 18^ 


My Dear Friend. — 

You will see by the data of this the rapidity with which I 
have crossed two thirds of the United States. I had the happi- 
ness of pressing my beloved wife to my breast Yesterday morn- 
ing; saw my two sons at Louisville and all is well. — from 
Philadelphia to Pittsburgh I found the Roads, the Coaches, 
horses Drivers and Inns all much improved and yet needing a 
great deal to make the traveller quite comfortable — The slow- 
nesse of the stages is yet a great bore to a man in a hurry — I 
remained part of a day at Pittsburgh where of course I paid 
my respects to the Museum! I was glad to sec the germ of 

7 At one time in possession of Dr. R. W. Shufeldt, who received it 
from Mrs. Audubon; given verbatim by Elliott Coues (Bibl. No. 43), 
Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, vol. v, 1880. 

8 Harlan's Hawk, or the Black Warrior, is now regarded as a southern 
variety of the Red-tailed Hawk, and is designated under the trinomen, 
Bueto borealis harlani. 


one — it is conducted by a very young man named Lambdin— I 
made an arrangement with him [place of seal — paper gone] 
& c & c - & c - at Cincinnati I also visited the Museum [paper 
gone] it scarsely improves since my last view of it, except 
indeed by wax figures and such other shows as are best suitable 
to make money and the least so to improve the mind. — I could 
not see D [illegible] my time was very limited. — The Ohio was 
in good order for Navigation and I reached Louisville distant 
from you about 1,000 Miles in one week. = as you spoke of 
travelling westwardly I give you here an a/c of the Fare. — to 
Pittsburgh all included 21$.— to Louisville 12$.— and 25$ 
more to Bayou Sarah where I Landed. 30 $ is the price from 
Louisville to N. Orleans. =our Steam Boats are commodious 
and go well — but my Dear Friend the most extraordinary 
change has taken place in appearance as I have proceeded. — 
The foliage had nearly left the Trees in Pensylvania, the Swal- 
lows had long since disapeared severe frost indeed had rendered 
Nature gloomy and uninteresting — Judge of the contrast: 
I am now surrounded by Green Trees and Swallows gambole 
around the house as in Pensylvania during June & July=The 
mock bird is heard to sing and during a Walk with my Wife 
yesterday I collected some 20 or 30 lnsects=that is not all, 
a friend of mine here says that he has discovered 2 or 3 New 
Birds ! ! ! — new Birds are new birds our days, and I shall en- 
deavour to shew you the Facts Simile when again I shall have 
the pleasure of shaking your hand — 

although so lately arrived, I have established the fact that 
M rs A. and myself will be on our way towards "Old England" 
by the 15 th of JanJ- we will ascend the Mississipi and after 
resting ourselves at Louisville with our sons and other rela- 
tives about one month and then proceed with the Rapidity of 
the Wild Pigeon should God grant our wishes! — 

have you seen or heard any thing of Ward?— have you 
the little sketch of Dear?=we had a passenger on Board the 
Huntress named Potts from your City who knows you well a 
lively young Gentleman; has a Brother (a Clergyman) estab- 
lished and married at Natchez. — 


I will begin Drawing next week having much scratching 
with the Pen to perform this one, and I am also desirous to 
make [paper gone] Large Shipment of aborigines both animal 
and vegetal as soon as possible. — Turkeys, Aligators, Oppos- 
sums, Paroekett, and plants, as Bignonias & c & c & c - will be 
removed to the Zoological Gardens of London, from the Natural 
ones of this Magnificent Louisiana ! — meantimes I will not for- 
get my Friends in Phil a - no I would rather forgive all, to all 
my Ennemies there. — assure Dr Hammersley that Ivory Billed 
and Peleated Woodpeckers will be skinned, and who knows but 
I may find something more for him. — I will give free leave to 
Dr. Pickering to chuse amongst the Insects and who knows but 
I may find something new for him. remember me most kindly 
to both, nay not in the common manner of saying "M r Audubon 
begs to be remembered" no not [at] all. This way M r A re- 
members you and you and I will remember you and you and / 
always ! ! — 

May I also beg to be remembered in humble words to a 
fine pair of Eyes; divided, not by the Allegany Mountains; 
but by a nose evidently imported from far East, to a placid 

forehead, to a mouth speaking happiness to — [dash 

nearly across page.] 

Should you see Friend Sully remember me to him also — and 
should you see George Ord Esq 1 "- Fellow of all the Societies 

Imaginable present him my most humble [dash line 

more than across the page.] 

Should you see that good woman where I boarded at 
Camd'den tell her that I am well and thankful to her for her 
attentions to me. — 

I cannot hope the pleasure of an answer from you here 
but you may do so, and I say pray do so, directed to the care 
of N. Berthoud Esq r Louisville Kentucky.— by the bye my 
sons are taller than me, the eldest one so much altered that I 
did not know him at first sight, and yet I have Eyes — 
God bless You, Your Friend 

John J. Audubon. 


[The following is written across the first page:] 

I reopened my letter to say that I have Just now killed a 
Large New Falcon yes positively a new Species of Hawk almost 
black about 25 Inches Long and 4 feet broad tail square Eye 

yellowish White, Legs and Feet bare short & strong. 1 will 

skin it Ill- 
remember me to Lehman 

What I have said about the Hawk to You must be Lawful 
to Academicians and you will please announce Falco Harlanii 


John J. Audubon 

F. L. S. L. 

The following extracts are from a letter 9 written by 
Swainson, January 30, 1830, and sent to Havell in 
London to be readdressed : 

William Swainson to Audubon 

I know not in what part of the Wilds of America you may 
now be wandering, but I hope you are fully intent upon your 
great object, and that you are not only making drawings, and 
taking notes, but preserving Skins, of all your little favorites. 
Don't forget the Shrikes, of which I have strong suspicions 
there are 2 or 3 species mixed up with the name of Logger- 
head. Should you be in the land of the Scarlet Ibis, do pray 
procure a dozen or two of the best skins, they are the most 
magnificent birds of No. America, and are said to be common 
towards New Orleans. 

You will learn frm the Newspapers how uncommonly severe 
is our winter the snow has now been upon the ground five weeks 
and it is still falling. I manage, however, to walk out every 
day, and thus have acquired better health than I have enjoyed 
for many years. 

Previous to your embarking to England, which I hope you 
will do very early in the spring you must do me one favor. 

9 Published by Ruthven Deane (Bibl. No. 217), The Auk, vol. xxii, 


Bring me two Grey Squirrels alive, and a cage full of little 
birds, either the painted or non-Pareil finch the Blue finch, or 
the Virginian Nightingale, as they are called, 3 or 4 of each 
to guard against casualties by death on the voyage. I do not 
care one farthing whether they sing or not, so that I presume 
they may be got for a mere trifle. The Squirrels would delight 
the little people beyond measure, and would prove a never- 
failing source of amusement to them. I believe you have other 
kinds than the grey, so that any will do. If you cannot get 
them pray supply their place by two Parrots of America. 

We continue pretty well at the Green. Seldom go to town, 
but I find people begin to discover the true character of V 
[igors]. and many that were formerly his friends now speak 
very differently of him. His father having died the property 
has come to him. He has now taken a fine house in the Re- 
gents park, and holds conversaziones (in humble imitation of 
those of the President of the Royal Society) every Sunday 
evening during the season!! all this is very grand, and he ap- 
pears to have abandoned writing any more papers on or- 
nithology, since I have begun to point out his errors. 

Ward wrote to me since my last, he is a poor weak fellow, 
with a good natural disposition, but so little to be depended 
upon, that he is turned round by every feather, after insert- 
ing that he could not go on "in my service" as he called it, 
under ten dollars a week, he now says he should be most happy 
to receive four. He says not a word of his marriage, which 
proves his wish to decive one. I have done with him. ... I 
hope you have got me lots of River shells. 

About the beginning of the year 1827 Mrs. Audu- 
bon gave up her "Beechwoods" school, and thereafter 
took a position as governess in the home of Mr. William 
Garrett Johnson, whose plantation, called "Beech- 
grove," was situated in the same parish. An anony- 
mous writer thus referred to this house in 1851: 10 

10 Thomas B. Thorpe (Bibl. No. 64), Godey's Lady's Book, vol. xlii, 


In the hospitable mansion of W. G. J , in the parish of 

West Feliciana, if one will look into the parlor, they will see 
over the piano a cabinet sized portrait, remarkable for a bright 
eye and intellectual look. The style of it is free, and there is 
an individuality about the whole that gives assurance of a 
strong likeness. Opposite hangs a proof impression of the 
bird of Washington, a tribute of a grateful heart to an old 
friend. The first is a portrait of Audubon painted by himself ; 
the other is one of the first [of his] engravings that ever 
reached the United States. 

There Audubon spent nearly two months at the close 
of 1829, and followed his usual occupations of hunting 
and drawing, while his wife prepared for their contem- 
plated journey to Europe. He is said to have drawn 
at this time the "Black Vulture attacking a herd of 
Deer," several large hawks, squirrels, and heads of deer 
which were never finished. 

Although Audubon's business affairs in England 
had been left in charge of his trustworthy friend, John 
G. Children, his engraver, Havell, had become alarmed 
at the loss of subscribers and the failure of certain of 
their agents, and particularly M. Pitois of Paris, 11 to 
render due returns. Havell, as it proved, was unduly 
disturbed, but his gloomy accounts tended to hasten 
the naturalist's departure, a circumstance that was later 
deplored. These matters are clearly reflected in the 
following letter written from the Johnson home in Lou- 
isiana when the Audubons were preparing to leave it; 
particularly interesting are the included statements 

"While in Paris in 1828, Audubon wrote on October 26 that he had 
received a call from "a M. Pitois, who came to look at my book, with a 
view to becoming my agent here; Baron Cuvier recommended him strongly, 
and I have concluded a bargain with him. He thinks he can procure a 
good number of subscribers. His manners are plain, and I hope he will 
prove an honest man." See Maria R. Audubon, Audubon and his Journals 
(Bibl. No. 86), vol. i, p. 339. 


through which it was hoped that a competent successor 
might be secured for the duties of the position which 
Mrs. Audubon had so ably rilled: 

Audubon to Robert HaveU 

Beech Grove, Louisiana 
Deer 16th 1829 

My Dear Mr Havele. — 

I received yesterday from New York your letter of the 
29th. Sept. which must have reached Philadelphia 3 days after 
my departure for home= 

I am sorry that Bartley should have made you suffer a 
moment by sending you the intelligence of the failure of the 
several subscribers you mention in your favor — it cannot be 
helped — there is none of your fault and / must repair these 
matters when I reach England again = 

I am considerably more sorry and much vexed that Sowler 
should have failed in his written promise to accept your Dfts. — 
even in a case of the diminution of subscribers he could cer- 
tainly have sent you a progressional amount — I am now almost 
sure that Pitois has failed or acted the Rogue= 

We are making all preparations in our power to leave 
Louisiana on the 5 or 10th. of Jan.y and we will proceed as 
fast as Steam Boats, Coaches and the weather will admit of 
and we will sail for England from New York with all possible 
dispatch. I have made a shipment of Forest trees to England 
that I hope will turn to good account as they are to be presents 
to Public Institutions &c and that I think it necessary to 
be remembered myself. — 

We are both well — our sons are at Louisville, Kentucky 
where we will see them about the 20th. of next month. — I sent 
you in my letter a proposal for your sister and should you 
not have received it I send it you again here in Mrs A.'s. hand 
writing. — I would advise your sister to come if the money is 
an object. — I think that besides she will be comfortable with 
the familly Johnson — if she thinks fit to wait untill we see 
her, we can tell her all about it.= 


I have received only one letter from friend Children dur- 
ing all this absence against my very many — 
I hope the insects I sent him by the Annibal have reached safely. 
— have no news to give you — Keep up a good heart — we will 
be in London as soon as possible. — I have not had a letter 
from Miss Hudson for a long time — I hope her mother & her 
are well — Remember me kindly to your Dear Wife and Little 
ones — Mrs Audubon joins me in all good wishes — If you see 
Parker my remembrances to him=I will carry with me some 
Drawings that I know will make the graver and the Acid Grin 
again. — 

Believe me your friend — 

John J. Audubon. 

When you present my sincere regards to friend Swanson 
[Swainson] tell him that I have had only one letter from him 
and that I am now quite unable to say where Mr Ward is=I 
had a letter from Henry Havell 12 the other day merely ac- 
knowledging the money I have paid him — he was in New York, 
I hope quite well — 

A friend of ours here named Wm. Garrett Johnson (a 
cotton planter) a gentleman who resides in a perfectly healthy 
and agreeable part of the country, desires that I should write 
to England to procure for him a Governess, one who can teach 
music, drawing and the usual branches of education to young 
Ladies. Mr. Johnson will pay the sum of one thousand dol- 
lars per annum, board, lodging &c, also and considered in all 
respects as a member of the family, to any lady who will un- 
dertake occupation (the sum is about 230 £ ) the governess will 
have to instruct ten or twelve young persons of various ages, 
and may make the arrangement for five years if desirous of it. 
I have thought this would suit your sister precisely, and for 
my part knowing the family Johnson as I do I should think it 
an excellent thing for her. if not I will look for some one when 

12 Henry Augustus Havell, a younger brother of Robert Havell, 
Junior; see Vol. II, p. 191. 


I am in England, Sailing from England direct for New Orleans, 
steam Boats reach the place of Mr Johnson in two days. 

I, Wm. Garrett Johnson do authorize my friend J. J. Audu- 
bon to make the above proposition and do by these present obli- 
gate myself to comply with them punctually and particularly. 

Wm. Garrett Johnson. 

Mr Rob t Havell Ju r 
79 Newman Street 
Oxford Street 

"On January 1, 1830," said the naturalist, "we 
started for New Orleans, taking with us the only three 
servants yet belonging to us, namely, Cecilia, and her 
two sons, Reuben and Lewis. We stayed a few days at 
our friend Mr. Brand's, with whom we left our servants, 
and on the seventh of January took passage on the 
splendid steamer Philadelphia for Louisville, paying 
sixty dollars fare." 13 After a long visit with their 
sons, on the seventh of March they ascended the Ohio 
to Cincinnati, and at Wheeling took the mail-coach to 
Washington. At the national capital Audubon met 
the President, Andrew Jackson, and was befriended by 
Edward Everett, at that time a leader in the House of 
Representatives. "Congress," said the naturalist, "was 
then in session, and I exhibited my drawings to the 
House of Representatives, and received their subscrip- 
tion as a body." He also recorded that he obtained 
three subscribers in Baltimore, and left for Philadel- 

is See Lucy B. Audubon, ed., Life of John James Audubon, the Natural- 
ist (Bibl. No. 73), p. 203. 


phia, where they remained a week. The following note, 
which Edward Everett gave Audubon for New York, 
is particularly interesting, since it expressly states that 
at that time the ornithologist had not received a single 
subscriber in the United States: 

Edward Everett to Dr. Wainwright 

Washington 18 March 1830 
My dear Sir, 

Allow me to introduce to your acquaintance, the bearer 
of this letter, Mr. Audubon of Louisiana. His drawings of 
American Birds, of which he will show you some, will I am 
sure command your approbation, as they have the applause 
of Europe. — I am sorry to say, that he has not yet procured 
a single subscriber, in the United States of America. Will not 
one of your Institutions in New York — or your wealthy and 
liberal individuals^take a copy? I pray you endeavor to 
procure him at least one subscriber, in New York. — 

Yours with great regard 

E. Everett. 
Rev Dr Wainwright 

Audubon had evidently reconsidered his expressed 
intention of presenting a copy 14 to Congress, and to 
Edward Everett belongs the credit of subscribing to 
The Birds of America in behalf of the Congressional 
Library. At about this time also he obtained another 
subscriber at Washington, in the person of Baron 
Krudener, the Russian envoy, but later experienced dif- 
ficulty in collecting his dues. 15 

14 See Vol. I, p. 396. 

15 See Vol. II, p. 38. 



Settlement in London — Starts on canvassing tour with his wife — Change of 
plans — In Edinburgh — Discovery of MacGillivray — His hand in the 
Ornithological Biography — Rival editions of Wilson and Bonaparte — 
Brown's extraordinary atlas — Reception of the Biography — Joseph 
Bartholomew Kidd and the Ornithological Gallery — In London again. 

On the 1st of April, 1830, Audubon and his wife 
sailed from New York in the packet ship Pacific, bound 
for Liverpool, where they landed after a voyage of 
twenty-five days. Upon returning to London the nat- 
uralist found that upon the 18th of the preceding March 
he had been elected to membership in the Royal Society, 
an honor for which he felt indebted to Lord Stanley 
and his friend Children, of the British Museum; after 
paying the entrance fee of £50, he took his seat in that 
body on the 6th of May. The painting of pictures was 
at once resumed to meet his heavy expenses, but towards 
the end of July he started with Mrs. Audubon on a 
canvassing tour, in the course of which his plans sud- 
denly were changed so that London did not see him 
again for nearly a year. 1 On this journey they touched 
at Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, York, Hull, Scar- 
borough, Whitby, New Castle, and Belford, to visit the 
Selbys, and on the 13th of October reached Edinburgh, 
where they were soon comfortably settled in the natural- 
ist's old lodging place, the house of Mrs. Dickey, Num- 
ber 26, George Street. 

1 His correspondence with William Swainson from this point, and the 
history of his letterpress so far as that naturalist was concerned, will be 
unfolded later (see Chapter XXIX). 



Audubon was now ready to begin the text of his 
Birds of America, to be called Ornithological Biogra- 
phy, which is often referred to as his "Biography of 
Birds." This work, which was eventually extended to 
five large volumes of over three thousand pages, was 
published at Edinburgh from 1831 to 1839. He had 
made crude beginnings with this in view as early as 
1821, and on October 16, 1830, he wrote: "I know 
that I am not a scholar . . ." but, "with the assistance 
of my old journals and memorandum-books, which were 
written on the spot, I can at least put down plain truths, 
which may be useful, and perhaps interesting, so I shall 
set to at once. I cannot, however, give scientific de- 
scriptions, and here must have assistance." To supply 
this need, as we have seen already, he had earlier applied 
to William Swainson, but the negotiations with that 
naturalist were soon broken off, and led to a sharp and 
acrid discussion upon the authorship of the work 

itself. 2 

By a rare stroke of genius or good fortune, Audubon 
chose for his assistant a young Scotch naturalist, Wil- 
liam MacGillivray, who had been introduced to him by 
another naturalist, James Wilson, soon after he reached 
the Scottish capital. MacGillivray agreed "to revise 
and correct" his manuscript at the rate of two guineas 
per sheet of sixteen pages, and in the latter part of 
October, 1830, they set to work. We shall soon have 
occasion to speak more fully of his debt to this esti- 
mable Scotchman, 3 and will only add here that a better 
trained or more competent helper than MacGillivray 
could hardly have been found in Great Britain or else- 

a See Chapter XXVIII, p. 87. 
3 See Chapter XXX. 

mrs. dickie's "boarding residence," 2ti george street, 


After a photograph in possession of Mr. Ruthven 



After an old print; reproduced from Cassinia for 1910. 


No sooner had Audubon begun to write than it was 
learned that "no less than three editions of 'Wilson's 
Ornithology' were about to be published, one by 
Jameson, one by Sir W. Jardine, and another by a Mr. 
Brown." The outlook could not be considered encour- 
aging, but this intelligence only nerved him to greater 
effort, and he was determined to push his own publica- 
tion with such unremitting vigor as to anticipate them 
all. "Since I have been in England," he wrote in his 
journal, "I have studied the character of Englishmen 
as carefully as I have studied the birds in America, 
and I know full well that in England novelty is always 
in demand, and that if a thing is well known it