Le destin littéraire de la relation d'Abyssinie du Père Jérôme Lobo. Des recueils de voyages des érudits de la République des Lettres au conte philosophique de Samuel Johnson

On pense que les premières explorations véritables de ce qui est un des plus vieux royaumes du monde et une des localisations imaginées de celui du Prêtre Jean commencèrent au XVe siècle à l’initiative des souverains portugais. C’est au milieu du XVIe siècle que les Jésuites arrivèrent en Ethiopie pour évangéliser, avec plus ou moins de bonheur, le pays. Certains en rapportèrent des récits de voyages, ce fut le cas du Père Jérôme Lobo (1593-1678) dont la « relation » connut une certaine célébrité puisqu’elle fut notamment traduite en français et en anglais, fut reproduite dans plusieurs recueils de voyages réalisés par des érudits de la République des Lettres et inspira le Rasselas de Samuel Jonhson, l’équivalent anglais du Candide de Voltaire.

Eléments bibliographiques

Abebe, Berhanou, « Histoire de l’Éthiopie d'Axoum à la révolution » Maisonneuve & Larose, coll. « Monde africain », Paris 1998.
Archives de la Royal Society - Londres
Barnard, Toby, “Sir Robert Southwell (1635-1702), diplomat and government official” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.
Beer, E. S. de, “John Evelyn, Fellow of the Royal Society (1620-1706)”, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 15, pp. 231-238, London 1960.
Blay, Michel, « La République des Lettres », La Science classique - Dictionnaire Critique, pp 149-154, Flammarion, Paris 1998.
British Library, ESTC (English Short Title Catalogue).
Brown, Harcourt, « Un cosmopolite du grand siècle : Henri Justel » Bulletin de l’histoire du protestantisme français pp 187-201, Paris 1933.
Carey, Daniel, “Compiling nature’s history : travellers and travel narratives in the early royal society”, Annals of Science, Volume 54, Number 3, pp. 269-292, London May 1997.
Catholic Encyclopedia, “Pre-1773 History of Jesuits” 1917/1997.
Catalogue de la bibliothèque de l’Université de Cambridge. COPAC UK academic and national libraries catalogue.
Curran, Andrew, Imaginer l’Afrique au siècle des Lumières, Wesleyan University, Middletown (CT) - Cromohs, 10 (2005), pp 1-14.
Da Costa, M.G., “The Itinerario of Jeronimo Lobo” translated by Donald M. Lockhart, with an introduction and notes by C.F. Beckingham, Hakluyt Society bulletin, London, 1984.
Davies, John-D, “Sir Peter Wyche (1628-1699) diplomat and translator” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.
Dew, Nicholas, “Reading travels in the culture of curiosity : Thévenot's collection of voyages” Journal of Early Modern History, Volume 10, Numbers 1-2, pp. 39-59, Mc Gill University, Montréal, 2006.
« Eloge de M. Thevenot » Journal des Savants de l’année 1692, GALLICA, BNF, pp 435-437.
Elton, Charles Isaac, and Marie-Augusta, The great book-collectors Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & C. Ltd, London 1893.
Encyclopaedia Britannica (11ème édition), biographie de James Bruce de Kinnaird.
Faidutti, Bruno, Images et connaissance de la licorne (Fin du Moyen Âge - XIXe siècle, Thèse de doctorat de l'université Paris XII, Novembre 1996.
Goethe-Institut / Ethiopian Studies : The birth of German Ethiopian studies out of Biblical research.
Gold, J.J., “Johnson’s translation of Lobo” Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, Vol. 80, No. 1 pp. 51-61, Mars, 1905.
Guyot, François, Le voyage en Éthiopie, dernier voyage en Orient, 160 pages, coédition Les nouvelles d’Addis-L’Harmattan, Paris, Septembre, 2001.
Hazard, Paul La pensée européenne au XVIIIe siècle (première édition 1946), 470 pages, Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris, 1979.
Johnson, Samuel, Histoire de Rasselas, prince d’Abyssinie Desjonqueres Paris 1994
Justel, Henri, Recueil de divers voyages faits en Afrique et en l'Amérique, qui n'ont point esté encore publiez ; contenant l'origine, les mœurs, les coutumes et le commerce des habitans de ces deux parties du monde. Avec des traitez curieux touchant la Haute Éthyopie, le débordement du Nil, la mer Rouge et le Prête-Jean Paris Louis Billaine 1674.
Kolb, Gwin-J. “The "Paradise" in Abyssinia and the "Happy Valley" in "Rasselas" Modern Philology, Vol. 56, No. 1, pp. 10-16, University of Chicago Press, August, 1958.
Lanni, Dominique, « L’imaginaire africain des voyages imaginaires. Jacques Sadeur au Congo et la première apparition des Cafres dans le roman : La Terre australe de Gabriel de Foigny » Université de Paris IV- Sorbonne (C.R.L.V.), Septembre, 2004.
Leyden, John, Histoire complète des voyages et découvertes en Afrique, depuis les siècles les plus reculés jusqu'à nos jours -1817 -, Tome 4, Chapitre V, GALLICA, BNF, édition traduite, pp. 123-235, A. Bertrand, Paris, 1821.
Lobo, Jérôme, S.J., Relation historique d’Abyssinie traduite du portugais, continuée et augmentée de plusieurs dissertations, lettres et mémoires par M. Le Grand, GALLICA, BNF, Hachette (reproduction édition de 1728, 514 pages), Paris, 1972.
Lockhart, Donald M., “The Fourth Son of the Mighty Emperor : the Ethiopian background of Johnson’s Rasselas”, Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, Vol. 78, No. 5., (Dec., 1963), pp 516-528.
Markham, Clements R., “The Portuguese expeditions to Abyssinia in the fifteen, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries”, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Vol. 38, pp. 1-12, London, 1868.
Malcolm, Noël, “The library of Henry Oldenburg” The British Library Journal, pp 55, 2005.
Pankhurst, Rita, “Ethiopia's Image in World Literature, 1 - From Ancient Greece to Samuel Johnston”, Addis Tribune, 2004.
Revol, Philippe, “Voyages en Afrique sur le site de la Bibliothèque de France” Afrique et histoire, pp 320, Paris, 2003.

[Jean Trouchaud , ingénieur en mathématiques appliquées et en mécanique avancée, diplômé en sciences économiques, est retraité de l’industrie depuis 5 ans. Il est Secrétaire Général du Groupement de Génie Industriel, Vice-Président fondateur de l’association pour la revue de gestion industrielle, Administrateur de la section française de l’International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering et chargé de mission au Conseil National des Ingénieurs et Scientifiques de France. Il a été membre du Comité Henri Moissan 2006 et chargé d'une grande partie des célébrations pour le Centenaire du premier Prix Nobel de Chimie français. Co-animateur réformé du Groupe de Rencontres Œcuméniques de Meaux, il a écrit, mis en scène et joué une controverse entre Bossuet et Jurieu qui a fait l’objet d’un DVD commercialisé. Titulaire d'un baccalauréat en philosophie et d'un Master de Recherche en lettres classiques, il poursuit actuellement à Paris-Sorbonne (ED III)et à Londres, sous l’autorité du professeur Ferreyrolles un projet de doctorat en histoire des idées consacré à Henri Justel, un érudit huguenot anglophile du XVIIe siècle. Entre autres travaux, il a présenté lors d’un colloque universitaire à Condom en octobre 2004 une communication sur Bossuet et la Science qui a été éditée fin 2007, en novembre 2009 à University College London une conférence sur le Cénacle de Meaux publiée l’année suivante par la Huguenot Society puis en Septembre 2010, à Londonderry, une autre sur le thème :" Le rôle des Huguenots dans les échanges savants entre la France et l'Angleterre dans la deuxième moitié du XVIIe siècle" qui devrait être imprimée prochainement à l'international].

Voyage de M. de Thevenot au Levant où l'Egypte est exactement décrite avec ses principales Villes & les Curiosités qui y sont. Enrichi de figures-en tailles douces
A Paris, Chez Charles Angot, Libraire Juré, rue Saint Jaques, au Lyon d'Or. MDC LXXXIX, AVEC PRIVILEGE DU ROI.
Extraits du CHAPITRE LXIX consacré à l’Ethiopie
[…]

De divers voyages faits en Afrique et en Amérique, qui n'ont point este encore publiez
Contenant l’origine, les mœurs, les Coutumes & le Commerce des Habitants de ces deux Parties du Monde. Avec des traités curieux touchant la Haute Ethiopie, le débordement du Nil, la mer Rouge & le Prêtre Jean,
Le tout enrichi de Figures & de Cartes Geographiques, qui servent à l'intelligence des choses contenues en ce Volume,
A Paris, Chez la Veuve Ant. Cellier, rue de la Harpe, à l’lmprimerie des Roziers, M.DC.LXXXIV. AVEC PRIVILEGE DU ROY

Au lecteur
Le goust qu'on a aujourd'huy pour les Relations, & pour les Voyages, est devenu si general, que j'espère que le Public m'aura obligation du soin que je prends d'en amasser. J'en ay eu d'Angleterre, de Portugal & d'Italie, dont j'ay fait traduire les plus rares: Ceux qu'on m'a donnez ici ne font pas moins curieux. Je n'ay épargné pour vous satisfaire aucune dépense, ni plans, ni figures, ni Cartes Geographiques, pour l'intelligence des choses qui font comprises dans ce Recueil. Je le commence par le voyage de Monsieur Ligon, qui outre ses aventures contient encore l'Histoire de l’Isle des Barbades
meriteroit de composer un Volume à part […]
Ceux à qui j'avois parlé de ce Recueil me l'ont demandé avec tant d'empressement, que j'ay fait mettre les Relations sous la presse, à mesure qu'elles sont sorties des mains du Traducteur, ce qui m'a obligé de faire succeder immediatement à une Relation de l'Amerique celle du Nil, le plus celebre de tous les fleuves d'Afrique, laquelle nous apprend son cours, les raisons de son débordement, qui avoit esté inconnu jufqu'à present. Puisque Monsieur Wifche qui l’a traduit du Portugais en Anglois, ne nous a point appris le nom de l'Auteur, je me contenteray de vous dire que par un sejour de plusieurs années qu'il a fait dans les principales Provinces de l'Empire des Abyffins, il a esté témoin oculaire de la plus grande partie des choses qu'il nous apprend. Ce qu'il nous dit de la Licorne, du Preste-Jean, des Palmiers, est tres particulier. II fait aussi une description exacte de la mer Rouge, parle de son eau, de l'éthymologie de son nom avec tant de vraysemblance, qu'il est difficile de n'estre pas convaincu de ce qu'il avance. […]
Quoy que les Relations dont je viens de parler fussent capables de composer un juste Volume, je n'ay pû m'empêcher de grossir ce Recueil de la description de la haute Ethyopie, ou Empire du Prete-Jean. Elle a esté envoyée de Rome en Latin, avec une Carte exacte de tout ce grand pays, où sont les sources du Nil, une partie de son cours, les lacs au travers desquels il passe, ses catadoupes, les villes qu'il arrose. Le public en a l'obligation au Reverend Pere Efchinard Jesuite, qui sur le rapport fidèle des Peres de sa Societé avec lesqquels il a eu long-temps correspondance a reduit la Carte en l'estat que je vous la donne. […]

Henri Justel
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
THE HISTORY OF RASSELAS, PRINCE OF ABISSINIA.
BY SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.

CHAPTER I : DESCRIPTION OF A PALACE IN A VALLEY.
YE who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow; attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia.
Rasselas was the fourth son of the mighty emperor, in whose dominions the Father of Waters begins his course: whose bounty pours down the streams of plenty, and scatters over half the world the harvests of Egypt. According to the custom which has descended from age to age among the monarchs of the torrid zone, Rasselas was confined in a private palace, with the other sons and daughters of Abissinian royalty, till the order of succession should call him to the throne. The place which the wisdom or policy of antiquity had destined for the residence of the Abissinian princes, was a spacious valley in the kingdom Amhara, surrounded on every side by mountains, of which the summits overhang the middle part. The only passage, by which it could be entered, was a cavern that passed under a rock, of which it has been long disputed whether it was the work of nature or of human industry. The outlet of the cavern was concealed by thick wood, and the mouth which opened into the valley was closed with gates of iron, forged by the artificers of ancient days, so massy that no man could without the help of engines open or shut them. From the mountains on every side, rivers descended that filled all the valley with verdure and fertility, and formed a lake in the middle inhabited by fish of every species, and frequented by every fowl whom nature has taught to dip the wing in water. This lake, discharged its superfluities by a stream which entered a dark cleft of the mountain on the northern side, and fell with dreadful noise from precipice to precipice till it was heard no more. The sides of the mountains were covered with trees, the banks of the brooks were diversified with flowers; every blast shook spices from the rocks, and every month dropped fruits upon the ground. All animals that bite the grass, or browse the shrub, whether wild or tame, wandered in this extensive circuit, secured from beasts of prey by the mountains which confined them. On one part were flocks and herds feeding in the pastures, on another all the beasts of chace frisking in the lawns ; the sprightly kid was bounding on the rocks, the subtle monkey frolicking in the trees, and the solemn elephant reposing in the shade. All the diversities of the world were brought together, the blessings of nature were collected, and its evils extracted and excluded. The valley wide and fruitful, supplied its inhabitants with the necessaries of life ; and all delights and superfluities were added at the annual visit which the emperour paid his children, when the iron gate was opened to the sound of music ; and during eight days every one that resided in the valley was required to propose whatever might contribute to make seclusion pleasant, to fill up vacancies of attention, and lessen the tediousness of time. Every desire was immediately granted. All the artificers of pleasure were called to gladden the festivity; the musicians exerted the power of harmony, and the dancers shewed their activity before the princes, in hope that they should pass their lives in this blissful captivity, to which those only were admitted whose performance was thought able to add novelty to luxury. Such was the appearance of security and delight which this retirement afforded, that they, to whom it was new, always desired that it might be perpetual ; and as those, on whom the iron gate had once closed, were never suffered to return, the effect of long experience could not be known. Thus every year produced new schemes of delight, and new competitors for imprisonment. The palace stood on an eminence raised about thirty paces above the surface of the lake. It was divided into many squares or courts, built with greater or less magnificence, according to the rank of those for whom they were designed. The roofs were turned into arches of massy stone, joined by a cement that grew harder by time, and the building stood from century to century deriding the solstitial rains and equinoctial hurricanes, without need of reparation. This house, which was so large as to be fully known to none but some ancient officers who successively inherited the secrets of the place, was built as if suspicion herself had dictated the plan. To every room there was an open and secret passage ; every square had a communication with the rest, either from the upper stories by private galleries, or by the subterranean passages from the lower apartments. Many of the columns had unsuspected cavities, in which a long race of monarchs had reposited their treasures. They then closed up the opening with marble, which was never to be removed but in the utmost exigencies of the kingdom; and concealed their accumulations in a book which was itself concealed in a tower not entered but by the emperour, attended by the prince who stood next in succession.

CHAPTER. II : THE DISCONTENT OF RASSELAS IN THE HAPPY VALLEY.
Here the sons and daughters of Abissinia lived only to know the soft vicissitudes of pleasure and repose, attended by all that were skilful to delight, and gratified with whatever the senses can enjoy. They wandered in gardens of fragrance, and slept in the fortresses of security. Every art was practised to make them pleased with their own condition. The sages who instructed them, told them of nothing but the miseries of public life, and described all beyond the mountains as regions of calamity, where discord was always raging, and where man preyed upon man. To heighten their opinion of their own felicity, they were daily entertained with songs, the subject of which was the happy valley. Their appetites were excited by frequent enumerations of different enjoyments, and revelry and merriment was the business of every hour from the dawn of morning to the close of even. These methods were generally successful; few of the princes had ever wished to enlarge their bounds, but passed their lives in full conviction that they had all within their reach that art or nature could bestow, and pitied those whom fate had excluded from this seat of tranquillity, as the sport of chance and the slaves of misery. Thus they rose in the morning and lay down at night, pleased with each other and with themselves, all but Rasselas, who in the twenty-sixth year of his age began to withdraw himself frcm their pastimes and assemblies, and to delight in solitary walks and silent meditation. He often sat before tables covered with luxury, and forgot to taste the dainties that were placed before him ; he rose abruptly in the midst of the song, and hastily retired beyond the sound of music. His attendants observed the change, and endeavoured to renew his love of pleasure: he neglected their officiousness, repulsed their invitations, and spent day after day on the banks of rivers sheltered with trees, where he sometimes listened to the birds in the branches, sometimes observed the fish playing in the stream, and anon cast his eyes upon the pastures and mountains filled with animals, of which some were biting the herbage, and some sleeping among the bushes. This singularity of his humour made him much observed. One of the Sages in whose conversation he had formerly delighted, followed him secretly, in hope of discovering the cause of his disquiet. Rasselas, who knew not that any one was near him, having for some time fixed his eyes upon the goats that were browsing among the rocks, began to compare their condition with his own. " What," said he, "makes the difference between man and all the rest of the animal creation ? Every beast that strays beside me has the same corporal necessities with myself ; he is hungry and crops the grass, he is thirsty and drinks the stream, his thirst and hunger are appeased, he is satisfied and sleeps: he rises again and is hungry, he is again fed and is at rest. I am hungry and thirsty like him, but when thirst and hunger cease I am not at rest; I am, like him, pained with want, but am not, like him, satisfied with fulness. The intermediate hours are tedious and gloomy. I long again to be hungry that I may again quicken my attention. The birds peck the berries or the corn, and fly away to the groves, where they sit in seeming happiness on the branches, and waste their lives intuning one unvaried series of sounds. I likewise can call the lutanist and the singer, but the sounds that pleased me yesterday weary me today, and will grow yet more wearisome tomorrow. I can discover within me no power of perception which is not glutted 'with its proper pleasure, yet I do not find myself delighted. Man surely has some latent sense for which this place affords no gratification, or he has some desires distinct from sense, which must be satisfied before he can be happy." After this he lifted up his head, and seeing the moon rising, walked towards the palace. As he passed through the fields and saw the animals around him, " Ye," said he, " are happy, and need not envy me that walk thus among you, burdened with myself ; nor do I, ye gentle beings envy your felicity ; for it is not the felicity of man. I have many distresses from which ye are free ; I fear pain when I do not feel it ; I sometimes shrink at evils recollected, and sometimes start at evils anticipated; surely the equity of Providence has balanced peculiar sufferings with peculiar enjoyments." With observations like these the prince amused himself as he returned, uttering them with a plaintive voice, yet with a look that discovered him to feel some complacence in his own perspicacity, and to receive some solace of the miseries of life, from consciousness of the delicacy with which he felt, and the eloquence with which he bewailed them. He mingled cheerfully in the diversions of the evening, and all rejoiced to find that his heart was lightened.
[…]

Chercheur: 

Session: 

5 avril

Vidéo conférence: