American Farmer: Hector St John de Crèvecoeur
In August 1781 Madame d’Houdetot wrote to her friend Benjamin Franklin, then in Paris, recommending a young American to him: ‘He is a Frenchman by birth, but for a long time has been established in your country, under the protection of your laws, to which he is faithful ... His name is Crèvecoeur’. The young American was Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur, commonly known as Hector St John de Crèvecoeur. When he himself wrote to Franklin later that August, he signed himself ‘St John’ — which made Franklin wonder whether this was the same young man. Crèvecoeur deliberately blurred the details of his family history. We know that he was born at Caen in 1735 and that he attended a Jesuit college, where he read the memoirs of Abbé Raynal, whom he came to regard as his favourite author. At the age of 19, Crèvecoeur went to England to continue his studies, and became engaged to an English girl. When his fiancée died, he sailed for Canada as a soldier of fortune, and served with Montcalm’s army as scout and cartographer. This period of military service, culminating in the defence of Quebec against Wolfe in 1759, is something that Crèvecoeur never refers to in any of his writings. What is clear is that the young subaltern resigned somewhat hurriedly from his regiment after the Quebec campaign.
KeywordsTitle Page American Farmer French Edition Original Letter Revolutionary Period
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